Why you should gulp not sip your sports drink

New research suggests gulping’s better than sipping when it comes to sports drinks. James Witts explains… 

Gulp don't sip your sports drink!

Much research has assessed the composition of energy drinks and the volume you should look to consume each hour; little has focused on how that volume should be broken down. Until now.


A team led by Steve Mears at Loughborough University investigated whether the pattern of carbohydrate consumption affected the rate at which it was absorbed and assimilated by the body plus gastric comfort.

The protocol comprised a group of runners completing two 100min steady-state runs on a treadmill. The first run saw them consume 200ml of sports drink every 20mins; the second run saw them consume 50ml of sports drink every 5mins. What did they find? Perhaps surprisingly that oxidation rates were 23% higher during the larger-volume run and that neither run stimulated stomach upset.

Many triathletes will take small sips, thinking this is the optimum method. But it seems the larger volume accelerates gastric emptying, making more carbohydrate available for intestinal absorption. As always, practise in training before taking out into the racing amphitheatre.


Illustration: Daniel Seex