Do you need exercise fuel to get you through your workout? And if you do, what type of exercise fuel is best?
For anyone working out, the most important exercise fuel is water. There's no quicker way to compromise your performance than to become dehydrated. When you become dehydrated, your heart rate can increase by up to eight beats per minute for every litre of sweat you've lost. Depending on conditions, this can happen in as little as 30 minutes.
Becoming dehydrated will not only increase your heart rate, but also cause your temperature to rise. This not only reduces performance, but can also lead to heat exhaustion. It is therefore recommend that you drink around 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes of exercise.
Many people use sports drinks when they exercise - but do they need them? Sports drinks are useful for activities lasting longer than 90 minutes. They typically contain about 50 to 70 calories, plus an assortment of vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that endurance athletes who use sports drinks not only perform better, but also rate their exertion levels lower. However, if you are working out for less than 90 minutes, these drinks are simply extra calories.
An alternative to drinks, energy gels are designed to be easy for your stomach to digest. They typically have around 70 to 100 calories, plus vitamins, caffeine and other ergogenic (performance enhancing) additives.
There are dozens of different energy bars on the market, and it's worth looking at them carefully before choosing. While some are designed to meet the exacting needs of athletes (for example triathletes), many are packed with sugar and are little more than cleverly marketed candy bars.
If you choose to eat a gel or energy bar to replace the energy lost during your workout, don't forget you still need to consume plenty of water.