Exercise Enhanced by Carbohydrate and Electrolytes

Summary
This study was designed to look at the effects of drinking a 6% solution containing carbohydrates and electrolytes (CHO-E), among teenaged sportspersons, in terms of “endurance running capacity” and fatigue. The researchers compared the CHO-E with a dummy non-carbohydrate drink. Results showed that taking a carbohydrate and electrolyte solution during a predetermined high energy exercise can improve performance. “This study is the first to demonstrate that ingestion of a 6% CHO-E solution prior to and during prolonged intermittent exercise significantly improves the intermittent, high intensity endurance capacity of 12- to 14-year-old team games players.”

Introduction
Earlier studies on carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks had been conducted only on adults. However, the researchers state that “between 2002 and 2007 ~3.4 million people aged 6–16 years in England and Scotland regularly participated in soccer, rugby or field hockey”. Therefore, a large number of this population of teenagers and younger children consumed the carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks. Prior research has shown that children utilize more carbohydrates and have more resistance to fatigue than adults in sports like sprinting. This study tried to explore whether drinking these beverages before and during the sport event is really effective in improving performance and endurance among teenagers and children.

Methodology

  • A total of 15 games players involving ten boys and five girls within ages 12 to 14 were included in the study. They participated in two different exercise trials about a week apart.
  • For part A of the exercise, they did four 15-minute exercises, and for part B they had to run until exhaustion.
    • Participants were randomly offered 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution or a non-carbohydrate dummy drink five minutes before exercise and after each installment in part A.
    • In part B, “time to fatigue” i.e. time taken until exhaustion, the distance ran, heart rate per minute and “sprint time” was measured for both groups and analyzed statistically.

    Results

    • “Time to fatigue” was 24.4% more in the group that consumed 6% carbohydrate electrolyte compared to the dummy group. It should be noted, however, that this improvement in time was lesser than in adults when a similar test was conducted on them.
    • In part B, those that consumed the 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte ran farther than those who consumed the placebo.
    • Both groups performed similarly in sprint timings and had similar heart rates during the study.

    Shortcomings/Next steps
    This study was not planned to understand the exact mechanism by which the carbohydrate-electrolyte drink improves performance. The authors suggest that future studies to understand the underlying biochemical differences between adults and teenagers could help unravel the mystery of how these drinks enhance performance differently in adults, as compared to children.

    Conclusion
    Even though there have been prior studies on the effect of sport and health drinks on adults, this study is a pioneering work of its kind among teenagers. 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks have been consumed by teenaged game players who indulge in endurance sports but this is the first time that the benefits owing to it have been quantified. The results show that the drink does not alter sprint performance and times, and heart rate, but can significantly increase the time before a sportsperson is fatigued. This could be an important benefit of the drink. Also, this study showed that the physiological responses to this type of exercise were similar in adults as well as adolescent children.

    For More Information:

    6% Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Solution Improves Endurance Capacity, but not Sprint Performance in Adolescents
    European Journal of Applied Physiology March 2010
    By Shaun M. Phillips; Anthony P. Turner
    From the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    *FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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