Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Do sports / energy drinks enhance individual performance?

Image of Military health personnel wearing face mask discussing food options. Army 1st Lt. Tanner James (left), a dietetic intern at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, consults with a colleague about a special meal for Major League Baseball’s opening day (Photo by: Bernard Little, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center).

Sports drinks claim that they "increase performance," "rehydrate," and "refuel." What does this mean and should you include them as part of your work out?

What do sports drinks have in them?

Sports drinks contain electrolytes and carbohydrates (energy or fuel source). Carbohydrates replace the energy used to fuel your workout. Dextrose and high-fructose corn syrup are two commonly used energy sources.

Are all sports drinks the same?

Many energy sports drinks are available, however the energy source used for sports drinks varies. For example, some contain dextrose, a rapid source of fuel, while others use high-fructose corn syrup, which fuels muscles more slowly than dextrose. The cost of sports drinks can also vary with some being more expensive than others based on the cost of ingredients (high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper to produce than dextrose). Absorption rates of sports drinks is also different, dextrose has two glucose molecules, while high fructose corn syrup consists of glucose and fructose. Muscles absorb glucose more quickly than fructose. So if you are looking to fuel more quickly you will want to choose a beverage that is made primarily of dextrose.

Can sports drink increase your performance?

When it comes to "increased performance," there is no agreement on the definition. However, the use of sports drinks as fuel during exercise has been associated with performing an activity for a longer period of time.

When to include sports drinks...

Sports drinks aim to fuel the exercising muscle. However, not all exercise calls for drinking an energy-containing sports drink. You should critically analyze your exercise to ensure it meets the recommendations for adding energy containing sports drink. Different types of exercise require different amounts of energy replenishment. For example, intense exercise (an exercise level that makes it hard to carry on a conversation) lasting longer than one hour calls for ingesting, eating, or drinking 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour.

Additionally, endurance exercise (an exercise level of breathing hard but still being able to have a conversation) lasting greater than one hour also increases your need for energy replenishment. Exercise lasting less than one hour does not typically indicate a need for an energy-containing sports drink. Keep in mind that excess sports drink consumption can lead to weight gain.

Here are sports drink recommendations:

Exercise Time

Amount of Carbohydrate

Less than 1 hour

0 grams

Intense Exercise: 1 hour or longer

30 to 60 grams per hour

Endurance Exercise: 1-2 hours

30 grams per hour

Endurance Exercise: 2-3 hours

60 grams per hour

Sports drinks can aid in recovery after both intense or endurance exercise when used correctly. The next time you reach for a sports drink, make sure that drink is going to help you meet your performance goals; understand the amount and intensity of your exercise; read the sports drink label; identify the source of energy (dextrose versus corn syrup); identify how much energy (carbohydrates) it contains.

Making a smart choice will ensure you get the energy you need to enhance your performance.

For more information about diet and exercise, call your local military medical treatment facility's Nutrition Services Department.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Sep 28, 2023

Nebraska Air National Guard State Surgeon’s Path Leads Him to Professional Boxing’s Highest Pinnacle

Nebraska Air National Guard Col. (Dr.) Mark Shirley takes in a practice at Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing and Fitness Center in Omaha, Nebraska, on Oct. 10, 2022. A member of the Nebraska Air National Guard where he serves as the state surgeon, Shirley is also a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a member of the emergency department staff of the Memorial Community Hospital and Health System in Blair, Nebraska. (Photo: U.S. Air Force National Guard Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes)

Dressed in surgical scrubs, Nebraska Air National Guard Col. Mark Shirley looks like any other medical doctor pulling a 24-hour emergency department shift. Shirley serves as the state air surgeon where he oversees the medical support required to keep the Nebraska Air Guard’s approximately 1,000 airmen ready to support any and every federal or state ...

Article Around MHS
Apr 7, 2023

New Center a ‘Seismic Shift’ in Army Fitness

U.S. Army Col. Kent Solheim, 165th Infantry Brigade commander, pauses for a moment while climbing a rope during the “Kay Workout of the Day” at the Drill Sergeant Timothy Kay Soldier Performance Readiness Center. (Photo by Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office)

The Drill Sergeant Timothy Kay Soldier Performance Readiness Center, “represents a seismic shift” towards how the U.S. Army approaches how troops are trained, evaluated, and sustained, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, Fort Jackson’s commander. “It is an investment in individual soldier preparedness.” The Drill Sergeant ...

Article Around MHS
Feb 21, 2023

How One Officer is Chasing Her Dreams

U.S. Navy Lt. Tia Blythe

Her civilian physical therapy job wasn't enough. That's when Tia Laine Blythe decided to take her specialized skills to the military. Follow along with now U.S. Navy Lt. Tia Laine Blythe's military career path that has led to numerous awards, distinctions, and a whole new level of professional satisfaction.

Article Around MHS
Dec 12, 2022

Aviation Soldiers Volunteer to Lead Functional Fitness

Military personnel training at a CrossFit gym

It's not uncommon to find soldiers continuously performing their own workout routines while deployed. The U.S. Army's new Army Combat Fitness Test continues to serve as the fitness requirement for all components, and soldiers stationed overseas are doing everything they can to keep physical fitness standards in check across their formations.

Article Around MHS
Oct 26, 2022

Exoskeleton to Enhance Safety, Retention for Aerial Porters, Others

Military personnel pushes exoskeleton robotic fitness machine

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Center for Rapid Innovation, or CRI, held an event Oct. 6 with the U.S. Air Force Reserve Commander’s 445th Airlift Wing for a robotics team to demonstrate the latest Forge System, a pneumatically powered exoskeleton that augments leg strength to reduce fatigue, increase endurance, and offset weight.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery