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Energy for Sale

Energy products abound: in drinks, herbs, bars, and even goo. But do they do anything?
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Sports, Fortified, and Energy Drinks

The thirst for energy has opened up an extensive market for various potions. Sports drinks, energy cocktails, and fortified liquids are among the plethora of choices available for the drained and dehydrated.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are often no better than water, say experts, but they may make it easier for some people to get enough fluids in their system. They come in a variety of flavors and colors.

"If a sports drink will get someone to drink a little bit more than they would have if they were just going to drink water, then it's probably a good choice for them," says Moore, noting the importance of keeping hydrated. Sports drinks usually contain water, which is essential for energy production and proper functioning of the body. Hydration needs vary, depending on the individual, activity level, and the environment.

The caveat with sports drinks and flavored waters is that they contain calories, whereas water has none. This may be an important consideration for the weight conscious.

Many sports and fortified liquids also contain sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes to replace minerals lost in sweat. Electrolyte replacement is important for the physically active and for those who may be working in hot and humid environments.

"For most people who are not physically active, they don't need electrolyte replacement at all," says Moore. Most people just need to be properly hydrated, and that can be achieved with water or juice.

Some sports, fortified, and energy drinks also contain substances such as caffeine, chromium, amino acids, and proprietary blends.

Caffeine has been shown to improve athletes' reaction time, but it can also have undesired effects such as addiction, anxiety, and a fast heart rate.

Chromium is an essential mineral that may help control blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity. Controlling blood sugar levels may regulate energy, says Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine. The mineral can be found in beef, broccoli, processed ham, grape juice, and bananas.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and can be found in meat, cheese, soy, nuts, and fish. Makers of the sports drink Cytomax combined amino acids with a non-acid form of lactic acid. The resulting product, alpha L-polylactate, an ingredient in the drink, is supposed to provide sustained energy and reduce fatigue under endurance exercise.

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