Essential Sports Nutrition


Should you swish or swallow?

When was the last time you felt a sudden drop of energy during a workout but after a quick sip of a sport drink, swig of a gel or chop of a chew, you felt an instant pick-me-up?

Because skeletal muscle glucose uptake during exercise is not an instant process, it's important to consider the practicality of sport nutrition products as it relates to meeting your fluid, electrolyte, carbohydrate and motivational eeds.

Because of the time that it takes to digest and absorb nutrients (nutrients must move from the mouth to the small intestines, where absorption occurs), this is one of the primary reasons to rely on well-formulated sport nutrition products (instead of real food) in a convenient/portable form, to supply your body with a steady intake of "fuel" regularly throughout training/racing.

Ironically, when you consume sport nutrition, your muscles don't receive a quick jolt of energy, but instead, your brain was rewarded by something sweet (glucose), giving you a well-needed motivational/energy boost.

Although fatigue can be delayed through regular consumption of sport nutrition products during training/racing, it's the perception of glucose, rather than the metabolism of glucose in the body, that often gives you the instant energy boost as soon as you sip your sport drink or put some type of sugar in your mouth. In other words, in addition to ingesting calories, electrolytes and fluids, you can keep your brain communicating with your muscles to keep you moving during moments of low energy/motivation by swishing and spitting your sport drink (or sucking on an energy chew).

A lot of athletes question our strong desire to wear a hydration belt/pack when running - regardless of the volume/intensity of the workout/race. 

Well, it doesn't take much (sugar) to keep you going when you could be giving up due to low energy/motivation in training and racing and your low moment can be very unpredictable. I can't tell you how many times during a long distance race or intense workout that I was glad to have my fuel available around my waist when I needed it (between aid stations/intervals) due to a sudden drop in blood sugar or just a low moment. Just a sip, swish and either spit or swallow, and I found myself with an instant boost of energy to keep me going in the face of fatigue.

To learn more about this topic "Swish or Swallow" you can check out my article in the March/April issue of Triathlete Magazine.