When trying to lose weight, people often turn to sports drinks like Lucozade to help power through a hard workout at the gym.
It’s easy to see why.
Television adverts show top athletes pounding the treadmill, wiping their brow and nodding convincingly at their luminous bottle of Superhero-ade, as if to confirm that their legs would surely have buckled had they not visited the gym vending machine prior to training and spent a disgusting amount of money.
The same adverts often go on to make the bold claim that Lucozade is better than water.
That’s right – better than water!
The one thing the human body cannot physically live without.
The boffins at Lucozade have not only rendered H2O useless, they’ve improved the damn formula!
As you’ve probably picked up on my hint of sarcasm, today I’m going to show you why sports drinks are not all they’re cracked up to be, and why you should not use them if you’re trying to lose weight.
Is Lucozade Better Than Water?
Firstly, “better than water” is a claim that I’ve always hated.
For no other reason than it’s a f**king lie.
No substance is better for hydrating the human body than water.
Not Lucozade. Not Gatorade. Not that green s**t your annoying neighbor has started selling on Facebook.
“But this magical formula is made with Himalayan rose petals and real Unicorn tears!”
But in an age where bulls**t companies like Juice Plus claim to be “as good as real fruit and vegetables”, I guess it’s a free-for-all.
How can Lucozade get away with this type of false advertising?
Well, they can’t. Shortly after this horrendous tagline started appearing on television, the Advertising Standards Authority banned it.
The idea that a sports drink is better than water stems from the belief that participants are likely to drink more of a sports drink during exercise (because of the sweet taste), therefore they’ll hydrate their body more. This works in much the same way as coconut water, which only creates superior hydration due to certain participants preferring the taste and therefore drinking more. (1)
But that doesn’t mean it’s better.
Heck, by this same theory, Budweiser could change their marketing strategy to claim they too are better than water, as guys are more likely to gulp down 10 pints of alcohol on a Friday night versus 10 pints of water!
In a direct comparison, Lucozade (nor any other sports drink) has never been shown to give better hydration than water.
And why are certain participants more likely to drink more Lucozade?
Simple – it’s full of f**king sugar!
Heck, tell me I should have 3 cups of broccoli a day and it seems like a challenge. But tell me I should have 3 cups of McDonald’s milkshake a day, and I won’t even hear you because I’ll already have my head in the cup.
Why Sports Drinks Are Bad For Weight Loss
Most people are placing too much importance on supplements for weight loss.
Sports drinks are supplements.
But the one thing which governs weight loss is calorie intake. In order to lose weight you have to be eating less than you are burning. There is no way to over-ride this rule.
Not keto. Not low carbs. Not the latest so-called fat burner pill.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, whacking in 67 grams of sugar while you train probably isn’t the best idea.
This kind of energy may be useful to an endurance athlete during training which lasts 2+ hours at a time, but it’s unnecessary for a man or woman using the gym for weight loss purposes, as they’re putting calories in faster than they’re taking them out.
It’s also quite common for people to become addicted to the sweet taste of sports drinks, and start drinking them regardless of whether they go to the gym or not. That’s a whole new level of bad news.
A recent study published in the Obesity Research Journal clearly showed that inactive people who regularly consume sports drinks tend to report higher weight gain than those who do not (likely because they’re packed with calories but won’t fill you up, and the sweet taste can lead to other bad eating habits). (2)
What’s perhaps even worse is that sports coaches are giving them to kids before they train, too.
If you are not training for over 2 hours, then you aren’t training long enough to ‘need’ mid-workout carbohydrates at all. And if HIIT (high intensity interval training) is your primary form of cardio exercise then you’re making matters even worse.
As HIIT burns through our carbohydrate stores during training, it doesn’t make any sense to top them up while we train!
This was confirmed by research published in the American Journal of Applied Physiology back in 1997, which showed that pre-workout ingestion of carbohydrates hindered the fat burning effects of a 50 minute cycling workout, and is backed up by external research from Holland that same year which came to the same conclusion. (3, 4)
But what about post-workout?
Even if we make a case for having Lucozade after a workout to get those sugary carbs into our system (to spike our insulin levels and ramp up muscle protein synthesis), there’s still a better option!
First off, 30 grams of post-workout carbohydrates is all we need. In fact, it’ll produce the same anabolic response as 90 grams, so there’s no need for a bottle full of sugar. (5)
Secondly, milk has been shown to do a better job of post-workout recovery than sports drinks. That’s right, good old fashioned milk. (6)
It was also expertly demonstrated by The Rock…
Carbs Aren’t Bad
I’m not trying to say carbohydrates (or even sugar itself) are bad.
Research shows that a diet which goes lower in carbs (higher in fat) won’t produce any greater results than a diet which goes higher in carbs (lower in fat) providing total calories and protein intake are both controlled. (7, 8, 9)
You just don’t need them during training.
These thoughts were echoed by the National Hydration Council, who say:
“The majority of sports drinks contain calories and may only have a positive contribution to make to professional athletes and those participating in high intensity, endurance activity”
So I’m not bashing carbs.
If you’re a regular reader of my website, you’ll already know that I eat over 400g carbohydrates per day. I live in Carb City.
However, not everyone has my metabolism or training volume.
If you’re on a diet of, say, 1500 calories in a bid to lose some weight then I don’t recommend spending 267 of those calories on a bottle of Lucozade that you didn’t need anyway, because it won’t fill you up (it’s sugar) and just makes it more difficult to stay under your daily targets.
As such, weight loss turns into weight gain, and the trainee usually doesn’t realize what’s causing the problem because advertisements are leading them to believe that these drinks are helping them.
This is one of those long accepted fitness myths which has stuck around for years, despite the fact that it’s completely bogus. Like the myth of taking BCAAs before fasted cardio.
So now you know.
If you’ve enjoyed my article “Lucozade Is Better Than Water (At Making You Fat)”, share it.
- Kalman, D. S., et al. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sp Nut. 2012.
- Field, A. E., et al. Association of sports drinks with weight gain among adolescents and young adults. Obesity. (2014).
- Horowitz, J. F., et al. Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise. Am J Physiol. (1997).
- Coyle, E. F., et al. Fatty acid oxidation is directly regulated by carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. Am Physiol Soc. (1997).
- Glynn, E. L., et al. Muscle protein breakdown has a minor role in the protein anabolic response to essential amino acid and carbohydrate intake following resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology. (2010).
- Maughan, R. J., et al. A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index. Am J Clin Nutr. (2016).
- Leibel, R.L., et al. Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition . Am J Clin Nutr. (1992).
- Raatz, S. K., et al. Reduced Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Diets Do Not Increase the Effects of Energy Restriction on Weight Loss and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Men and Women. J Nut. (2005).
- Johnston, C. S., et al. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. (2006).