There's a new drink on the sports scene, called the “Ironman Perform Sports Drink” from Powerbar. Since many triathletes and active individuals read BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and this is the drink that will be served at all WTC Ironman and Half-Ironman triathlon events, I wanted to give you my personal thoughts on the Ironman Perform Sports Drinks. But first, a quick sports drink primer.
Surely, you've heard of Gatorade, Powerade and other sports drinks. Although the unfortunate fact is that they're being sipped by sedentary kids and adults at desks, sports drinks were originally designed with one sole purpose: to maintain hydration, electrolyte and glucose levels during exercise. Since an exercising individual working hard enough to sweat can lose about a liter of water per hour, and a 2 percent loss of body weight from sweat can lead to a 10 percent performance decrease, it's pretty logical that sports drinks are a good way to enhance performance during exercise in the heat.
Of course, preventing dehydration isn't the only goal of a sports drink. Electrolytes in sports drinks maintain proper mineral levels for nervous system function and muscle contractions. Sugar in sports drinks (usually in the form of a simple carbohydrate) provides energy for intense exercise, and since the body only stores enough glucose for about 90 minutes of exercise, consuming carbohydrates from sports drinks during exercise has a proven benefit.
So how is the new Ironman Perform sports drink any different than predecessors such as Gatorade or Powerade?
Powerbar describes Ironman Perform as: “a serious sports drink specifically developed by the sports nutrition experts at PowerBar®. Designed to enhance performance, keep you hydrated and help you push your limits when you need maximum energy delivery and cramp-crushing electrolytes.”
Let's dig a bit deeper.
An 8-fluid ounce serving includes:
17 grams of carbohydrates in a glucose to fructose blend (which some studies have found to improve endurance performance by 8 percent compared to a glucose-only blend)
190 mg sodium
70 calories (*ahem*, notice that this is in a 8 ounce serving – the actually bottles are 20 ounces, so closer to 200 calories in a bottle – it always perplexes why they can't just tell you how many calories/sodium are in the entire bottle, rather than the unrealistic 8 ounce portion)
My thoughts on the Ironman Perform sugar blend: it is true that utilizing two sugar transport systems, rather than one, can increase the total rate of carbohydrate absorption, which leads to more energy available to be burned as muscle fuel. This can help limited reserves of liver glycogen and blood glucose last longer.
My thoughts on the Ironman Perform sodium levels: I'd still like to see a product hit the market that has all the trace minerals we lose during exercise, along with magnesium and potassium, in addition to just sodium. That being said, with about 475mg sodium in a bottle of Ironman Perform, the average endurance exerciser would need close to two bottles an hour for adequate sodium intake (losses are around 1.5-2.5g/hr, but you don't necessarily need to replace all that, but a good portion of it), which would also mean they'd be consuming 350 calories, and 40 ounces of fluid.
My thoughts on the Ironman Perform concentration/osmolality: Osmolality is a measure of the concentration of a sports drink, (the osmolality of a fluid is a measure of the number of particles in a solution) and since your blood runs around 280 and 310 osmoles, it is important to keep the osmolality of the fluids going into your stomach close to the range of that of blood (especially for endurance events). For you geeks who want a comprehensive article on osmolality, click here. I don't know the osmolality of the Powerbar Ironman Perform and I couldn't find it anywhere, but if it's close to Gatorade, it's around 375 (the difference from Gatorade being that the source of the particles in Powerbar Ironman Perform is from two different sugars). So this might be a bit high, because when osmolality goes above 300 or below 280 osmolality, your gut must pull minerals and fluids out of the blood to allow for adequate calorie absorption.
My thoughts on the practical use of Ironman Perform Sports Drink: Folks, if I were going to rely on Ironman Perform Sports Drink as a primary fuel during, for example, Ironman, then I would need to drink at least two bottles of the stuff (40 ounces) per hour. Since fluid intoxication and performance-detracting, potentially life-threatening hyponatremia can set in once the body exceeds 32 ounces of fluid per hour, I don't think it would be prudent to use this stuff as a primary fuel. You'd just have to drink too much fluid to replace all your calorie and salt needs. But how about grabbing an 8 ounce serving of it while you run or bike by an aid station, or using Ironman Perform as *part* of your nutrition strategy? Considering that you're getting 190mg of sodium and 70 calories from an 8oz portion, you're still going to have to “fill in the holes” with salt pills or other carbohydrate sources such as gels.
My final thoughts on Ironman Perform: So for basketball, soccer, football, etc., Ironman Perform Sports Drink is fine, and is probably going to keep you hydrated and fed, since glycogen depletion is not a huge issue and you don't have to drink 40oz of the stuff each hour. But for a long endurance event, like Ironman triathlon, in which glycogen depletion is an issue, my recommendations remain the same as I lay out to the endurance athletes I coach and in the Triathlon Dominator Ironman Plan: keep things simple and clean – drink pure water, talk salt pills like Athlytes or Endurolytes, and eat gels/bars. Unless you're a really small person and not burning many calories or losing much fluid per hour, you'd just have to drink way too much of the stuff to get what you need. If anything, I'd like to see it mixed in a more concentrated solution.
If you really have to have it during something like an Ironman triathlon, and you drink one 20oz bottle per hour, also include 1-2 gels or 100-200 calories of extra fuel sources per hour, plus an extra salt capsule or two.
Have you tried Ironman Perform Sports Drink or do you have an opinion or argument? Leave your comments and questions below!