When heading out for a long track session (plus 2 hours) or perhaps a long ride on the road, carrying some liquid energy to top up energy stores for the plus hour mark is a no-brainer, and for many, that top-up energy source comes in the form of sports drinks (aka: Powerade, Gatorade, Staminade etc.).
Whilst sports drinks have a long standing history and are backed by evidence that supports their effectiveness in rehydrating and topping up energy stores, sports drinks should come with a few words of warning, something like…
“Warning, drinking may cause fast tooth-decay or erosion that may in time require root canals, or extractions”
Sports drinks and gels are acidic, and they stick to your teeth due to their high sugar contents. While there are plenty of normal foods that non-athletes consume that have the same effect (soft drinks, confectionary etc.), it’s the frequency of exposure during exercise that can cause your dentist a headache (and eat into your bank account).
When you carry sports drinks with you, particularly if you’re out on the road - you’ll sip frequently, increasing the amount of time that sugary acid has contact with your teeth, creating an environment that is perfect for breeding teeth cavities.
Additionally, when you exercise, your heart rate increases and so does your rate of breathing, often resulting in a dry mouth and dehydration. When you are dehydrated and have a dry mouth you don’t produce as much saliva, leaving your teeth unprotected from damaging acids from the high sugar content in sports drinks.
So, what are the alternatives?
For some, sugary sports drinks are preferred and we’ve generally found this most with athletes who have secondary reasons for drinking them (i.e. diabetics), or just prefer them in general. In these circumstances, we generally encourage athletes to carry 2 bidons to a training session or out on the road.
One bidon filled with water, the other with sports drink and for every sip of sports drink, it’s followed by a sip of water to wash the acid off the teeth.
For those who aren’t in a situation where they need to rely on sports drink, we generally would say to ditch them all together and focus on taking carbohydrate rich snacks to training (i.e. bananas, honey sandwich) and water.
On really hot days where there is a greater need for rehydration, opt for hydralyte or gastrolyte (oral rehydration salts) which generally don’t contain sugar, and are highly effective in replenishing and rehydrating the body.
Look after your teeth, and if you have any questions or comments leave us a few in the box below!