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What to Drink When You Exercise

The options include sports drinks, energy drinks, and just regular water.

Energy Drinks for Exercisers continued...

"In most cases caffeine stimulates alertness, motor skill, and concentration," says Clark.

She warns, however, that caffeine is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at levels equivalent to five Starbucks coffees. But drinking one Red Bull, for example, provides about 70 milligrams of caffeine, which is less than what you'll find in one Starbucks coffee (260 milligrams per 12-ounce serving).

Overuse of caffeine can cause the jitters, so exercisers just need to know how much to consume for their personal comfort, warns Clark.

Assorted other ingredients are added to some of these energy drinks, such as:

  • Taurine, which is similar to an amino acid but not considered a component of proteins. Glucuronolactone, a compound produced by the metabolism of glucose in the human liver. It's purported -- but not proven -- to fight fatigue.
  • Ginkgo biloba, which is thought to help prevent mental decline but again, this theory is up for debate.
  • Ginseng, which is promoted for energy and mental alertness, but the specifics of its effects aren't clear.
  • Guarana, which is nicknamed "herbal caffeine." This is a stimulant similar to caffeine, and so should be used only in moderation.

What's in Your Exercise Drink?

Below is some nutritional information, as available on labels, about some of the common sports and energy drinks available. And here's one more tip for staying hydrated when you work out: Whatever you choose to drink when you exercise, drink it well-chilled for faster absorption by the body.

Sports drinks (8 ounces):

  • Gatorade: 50 calories, 14 grams sugar (from sucrose syrup and high-fructose corn syrup), 110 mg sodium, caffeine-free. Other ingredients: potassium (30 mg). Vitamins (percentage of recommended Daily Value): None
  • Propel Fitness Water: 10 calories, 2 grams sugar (from sucrose syrup; also sweetened with sucralose or Splenda), 35 mg sodium, caffeine-free. Other ingredients: None. Vitamins (% Daily Value): 10% vitamin C; 10% vitamin E; 25% B3 and B6; 4% B12, 25% pantothenic acid.

Energy drinks (8 ounces):

  • Red Bull: 110 calories, 27 grams sugar (from sucrose and glucose), 200 mg sodium, contains caffeine. Other ingredients: taurine, glucuronolactone. Vitamins (% Daily Value): 100% B3, 250% B6, 80% B12, 50% pantothenic acid. Note: Red Bull is also available in a sugar-free option with acesulfame K, aspartame, and inositol as sweeteners. This version contains 10 calories and 0 grams sugar.
  • Rock Star: 140 calories, 31 grams sugar (from sucrose and glucose), 125 mg sodium, 80 mg caffeine. Other ingredients: taurine (1,000 mg), ginkgo biloba leaf extract (150 mg), guarana seed extract (25 mg), inositol (25 mg), L-carnitine (25 mg), Panex ginseng extract (25 mg), milk thistle extract (20 mg). Note: Rock Start is available in a sugar-freeoption sweetened with acesulfame potassium and sucralose or Splenda. This version has 10 calories and 0 grams sugar.
  • Sobe, Energy Citrus Flavor. 120 calories, 31 grams sugar (mainly from high-fructose corn syrup and orange juice concentrate), 15 mg sodium, contains caffeine. Other ingredients: guarana (50 mg), panax ginseng (50 mg), taurine (16.5 mg). Vitamins (% Daily Value): 100% vitamin C.
  • Amp Energy Overdrive (Mountain Dew). 110 calories, 29 grams sugar (from high-fructose corn syrup and orange juice concentrate), 65 mg sodium, contains caffeine. Other ingredients: guarana extract (150 mg), Panax ginseng extract (10 mg), taurine (10 mg). Vitamins (% Daily Value): 20% B2, 10% B3, 10% B6, 10% B12, 10% pantothenic acid.
  • Full Throttle Energy Drink (from Coca-Cola). 110 calories, 29 grams sugar (from high fructose corn syrup), 85 mg sodium, contains caffeine. Other ingredients: guarana extract (.70 mg), ginseng extract (90 mg), taurine. Vitamins (% Daily Value): 20% B3. 20% B6, 10% B12.
  • Sugar-Free Tab Energy. 5 calories, 0 grams sugar (contains sucralose or Splenda), 110 mg sodium, contains caffeine. Other ingredients: ginseng extract, guarana extract. Vitamins (% Daily Value): 25% B3, 25% B6, 15% B12.

Fortified waters (8 ounces):

  • Propel Fitness Water. 10 calories, 2 grams sugar, 35 milligrams sodium.Vitamins (% Daily Value) 25% for niacin (B-3), B-6, and pantothenic acid; 10% for vitamins C and E.
  • Glaceau Vitamin Water -- Energy. 50 calories, 13 grams sugar (from crystalline fructose), 0 mg sodium, 50 mg caffeine. Other ingredients: guarana (25 mg). Vitamins (% Daily Value): 40% vitamin C, 20% B3, 20% B6, 20% B12.
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