THEY are said to improve sporting performance by keeping you hydrated and full of energy.
In reality, sports drinks are no better than water, scientists have said.
Their research found that swimmers were actually slower after having the sugary drinks than if they had drunk water or nothing.
Academics from Cambridge and the University of East Anglia studied 19 competitive swimmers over 1,118 races. Having a popular brand of sports drink just before a race did not improve their speeds.
The researchers did not say which sports drink they looked at but said the findings applied to all popular brands such as Lucozade. They said the results would be true for other types of exercise.
Around one in four adults in the UK regularly buy sports drinks. We spent £66million on them in 2015.
They contain minerals known as electrolytes, which we lose during strenuous exercise, and sugar.
Experts fear the high sugar level causes obesity and tooth decay, particularly among youngsters. The biggest brands are Powerade, Gatorade and Lucozade. A 500ml bottle of Lucozade Sport contains 18g of sugar, which is more than half an adult’s recommended daily limit of added sugar.
The latest research was presented yesterday at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health annual conference in Birmingham. Lead author Dr Graham Briars said there was ‘no difference’ between sports drinks, water or having nothing.
He said: ‘People who drink a sports drink in the belief that it’s going to make them swim faster are mistaken. We can’t see any reason why this should not apply to other sports.’ He added that although sports drinks might improve hydration, we can function just as well when marginally dehydrated.
The team found swimmers’ speeds were on average three tenths faster if they drank nothing, compared to sports drinks or water.
Speeds after drinking water were a tenth faster than after having a sports drink but the differences were so small they were not deemed to be significant. Gavin Partington, head of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: ‘Sports drinks are specifically designed to help rehydrate during or after intense endurance exercise. However, there are many factors to consider including how physically active a person is in general and what else they have consumed that day.’
© Daily Mail