This report focuses on RTD (ready-to-drink) sports and energy drinks.
Sports drinks are drinks that claim, through scientific analysis, to improve sporting performance or to speed recovery. Most of these drinks are labelled isotonic/hypotonic and are aimed to rehydrate and replenish the sugar, water and other nutrients lost during exercise. Examples include Lucozade Sport, Powerade and Gatorade. As these contain very little carbohydrate (5-8%), such drinks provide fluid quickly as they are more easily absorbed, but contain relatively small amounts of energy.
Sports drinks are divided into three major types:
- Isotonic drinks: These have the same osmolality as that in the body, and are designed to aid rehydration as they are therefore readily absorbed into the blood. Isotonic drinks include Powerade and Lucozade Sport.
- Hypotonic drinks: These have a lower osmolality than body fluids and are therefore absorbed more quickly than isotonic drinks and more quickly than water into the blood.
- Hypertonic drinks: These have a higher osmolality than body fluids and are designed to be taken after exercise to replace electrolytes, aid recovery and provide an energy boost. Lucozade Sport Hydro Active is a hypertonic drink.
Energy drinks are drinks that specifically claim to provide an energy or stimulant boost, providing the body with extra energy during times of increased physical and/or mental activity. These generally include active ingredients such as glucose, caffeine and taurine, as well as other health-giving ingredients such as ginseng and various vitamins and minerals. The market now divides itself into three distinct categories:
- Energy drinks provide physical energy through glucose or a range of sugars, such as Lucozade Original Energy and in this way can be consumed pre-sports to ensure a physical edge.
- Stimulant drinks are designed to stimulate both mind and body, and claim to improve concentration, reaction time and endurance. Stimulant drinks contain active ingredients such as caffeine and taurine, and are non-alcoholic. The best-known example is Red Bull.
- Energy shots refers to what are usually more concentrated versions of energy/stimulant drinks ie they typically retail in a 50ml bottle rather than in a can of between 250 and 500 ml. They are marketed as longer-lasting energy aids, eg 5-Hour Energy drink which is the market leader in the US, where sales are much stronger than in the UK.
Common active ingredients in energy drinks include:
- glucose and sucrose, which are simple carbohydrates and constitute a source of energy
- caffeine, which has a stimulating effect on the body, most notably in the cardiovascular system and the brain.
- taurine is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body in levels that are sufficient to sustain its everyday needs. However, in times of increased physical exertion, the human body’s supply of taurine falls short of requirement. Manufacturers have claimed that taurine in liquid form delays the onset of fatigue. However, in a recent review, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) could find no robust evidence to support this claim.
- Sports nutrition products including protein powders, amino acids, creatine tablets and powders and ‘power’ bars (cereal bars with added vitamins and minerals), where these are positioned as assisting sports performance, helping to build up body muscle, increase personal strength or helping to get into shape.
- Powders (which mix with water, milk or other liquid to make a drink), tablets and capsules designed to build muscle or aid weight gain, where this is allied to weight resistance training.