by Ryan Jordan | 2006-01-27 03:00:00-07
So-called sports drinks and gels improve hydration and regulate energy levels by delivering a carbohydrate-based electrolyte solution to the body. From a hydration and energy maintenance standpoint, they may offer significant advantages over plain water in the context of long-distance backpacking where a hiker is walking most of the day (e.g., dawn to dusk). Protein drinks are common, too, but typically marketed as post-exercise supplements designed to aid muscle recovery rather than stimulate performance during a workout.
However, the addition of protein to a carbohydrate-based gel or drink is known to have a positive effect on minimizing classic effects of "bonking" during endurance exercise. Single push alpine climbers and ultrarunners know about this effect by adding beef sticks into their carbo gel performance diets. Some studies suggest that the addition of protein to a carbo gel or drink in a mass ratio of 4:1 (carbo:protein) increases the amount of carbohydrate (as energy) delivered to the muscle during endurance performance. So, in short, protein seems to improve the body's efficiency in utilizing the energy delivered to it by the drink or gel.
Accelerade, a manufacturer of sports drinks since 1997, is banking their success on this science by building their brand around a core of protein-carb sports drinks and gels designed to be used during endurance sports. Their presence at today's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Backcountry Basecamp reflects their increasing desire to penetrate the outdoor industry.
The company claims that their products have the capability of helping you play harder and longer (extending endurance), reduce injuries (by delaying muscle fatigue), and recover faster (by jump-starting muscle recovery during performance exercise), claims that cannot necessarily be backed up by drinks and gels composed exclusively of carbohydrates.
Accelerade, a Pacific Health Laboratories, Inc. brand, backs up their claims with "research" that they have sponsored, which shouldn't cause consumer concern over ethics (virtually every manufacturer backs up their claims with research they sponsor) so much as realizing that the studies and results may necessarily be designed to promote their products. It's no easy feat trying to detrench market giants Gatorade, Powerade, and Cytomax. In particular, Cytomax formulas have gained a wide following among outdoor endurance athletes through the years, including backpackers, ultrarunners, mountaineers, and adventure cyclists. Accelerade's products are different enough, however, and backed with enough legitimate science, that they may offer some meaningful performance benefits for long distance hikers.
Whether a performance based sports energy drink is the right choice for your style of hiking is not for us to judge, but at 120 calories per ounce, with a potential to regulate both energy levels and muscle performance, it's not something a long distance hiker interested in improving their distance or speed should ignore, either.
"Accelerade Sports Drinks: Protein-Supplemented Carbohydrate Sports Formulas Could Improve Backpacking Endurance (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2006)," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/accelerade_sports_drinks_orwm2006.html, 2006-01-27 03:00:00-07.