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Sports drinks have been implicated in contributing to obesity and chronic diseases by providing surplus calories and excess sugars. Using existing literature we compared energy intake from sports drinks consumed during exercise with the exercise-induced calorie expenditure to determine whether sports drink use might eliminate the energy deficit and jeopardize conditions for improved metabolic fitness. We identified 11 published studies that compared sport drink consumption to placebo during exercise with a primary focused on the effect of sport drinks or total carbohydrate content on enhancing physical performance. Energy expenditure (EE) was calculated using VO2, RER, and exercise duration for the exercise protocol. Energy ingestion (EI) was determined using the carbohydrate dosing regimen administered before and during the exercise protocol. A two-tailed t test was used to test whether the energy balance (EI-EE) was different from zero (alpha level = 0.05). Sport drink consumption during aerobic exercise of sufficient duration (≥ 60 min) did not abolish the energy deficit (p < .001). Mean ± SD were EE, 1600 ± 639 Cal; EI, 394 ± 289 Cal; and EI-EE,-1206+594 Cal; VO2, 3.05 ± 0.55 L/min; RER, 0.91 ± 0.04; exercise duration 110 ± 42 min. Ingesting sports drinks to enhance performance did not abolish the caloric deficit of aerobic exercise. Sports drinks can be used in accordance with research protocols that typically provide 30–60 g of carbohydrate per hour when exercising at adequate durations for moderate to high intensity and still maintain a substantive caloric deficit.
Dragusin is with the Midwestern University Osteopathic Medicine, Downers Grove, IL. Horswill is with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL.