Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar

Diet in sport

Explore a current and future scenario around diet in sport

Now: Sports supplements

There are lots of specially formulated foods and drinks that are sold to nourish people who are training or to help recovery after exercise. A normal, balanced diet, with plenty of protein and carbohydrate, supplies all that athletes really need, though – they just need more of it.

If you get thirsty during or after exercise, you need to drink water. Sports drinks supply that but also contain a mix of other chemicals. Isotonic drinks have a similar salt content to body fluids and often provide a sugar boost (such as sucrose, whose molecular structure you can see above) as well. They can aid rehydration and boost energy levels, and they may increase water intake because a nice taste encourages people to drink more. Their high energy content can undo the weight-loss benefits of moderate exercise, however. These are not to be confused with ‘energy drinks’, which mainly rely on caffeine for their effects.

Future: Antioxidants

There are varied claims about the benefits of particular substances in reducing the stress-related effects of heavy exercise. For example, some antioxidants in plants may help protect athletes from some of the metabolic by-products of their training regimes, and other natural products have anti-inflammatory properties, which can counteract immune reactions to extreme exercise. However, the real benefits of consuming foods or supplements containing these substances need more research.

Lead image:

Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar.

Bret Syfert via Wikipedia


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Exercise, Energy and Movement’ in January 2012 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Physiology, Health, infection and disease
Exercise, Energy and Movement
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development