Is drinking Coca-Cola helpful in endurance events?

How many times have you watched the Tour de France and seen professional cyclists drinking Coke? Have you ever wondered why they are drinking Coco-Cola and NOT drinking a sports performance drink?   On long rides, cyclists are known to drink FLAT Coke mixed with a sports drink during the last quarter of long races.   My curious nature lead me to do a little research in this area and the following is what I found out.  I always thought that was an “old-school” cyclist thing- but there is some research to support how the Coke beverage can help a cyclist. There is also quite a bit of research on the effects of high fructose corn syrup on performance. In the book, Endurance Sports Nutrition, 2nd Edition by Suzanne Girard Eberle; “caffeine most likely works by helping the body maintain better glucose levels (energy for muscles and the brain) and by stimulating the release of two powerful hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which helps increase blood sugar levels and enhance strength of muscular contractions. “(page 87) Bottom line, it’s not really a recommended SPORTS DRINK, however, the caffeine and the sugar may help these guys get to the finish line easier!For your reading pleasure, I also contacted Hammer Nutrition and Ron George for their opinions.Randy Bain, Customer Care Representative from Hammer Nutrition and this is what he said;”As a rule, simple sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients and preservatives should be avoided in our general diet. During exercise, they should simply not be consumed. Simple sugars cause unstable blood sugar levels, and require additional fluid and electrolytes for digestion. What this means for an athlete is unreliable energy levels, and resources being pulled from working muscles in order to aid in digestion. The digestive tract is working at a highly reduced capacity during exercise, since the body’s priority is keeping blood and oxygen moving to the brain, heart, lungs and muscles. Artificial ingredients and preservatives only create more work. Only the highest quality fuels should be consumed, including high-glycemic complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy lipids (depending upon the duration).With that said, I have seen several cyclists “reward” themselves with a Coke after a long ride, because the body is depleted and it just plain tastes good. This certainly doesn’t replace the need for a more substantial recovery drink (with complex carbs and whey protein,) but as a fuel, soft drinks should not be consumed. Simple sugars should not be used as a fuel, but using them in combination with complex carbohydrates can be even more problematic.”I also asked Ron a young Category 4 cyclist his opinion:”My opinion is that a little bit of good tasting carb and caffeine is not so bad, especially after a hard race. Those boys have every right to drink that stuff. Its refreshing and I don’t know why there should be anything bad about it. Any liquid form of carb should be easily digested by the body. As for me, I have no qualms about what I should eat and drink because I’m in my early 20?s and I need all the food I can get, especially with all the cycling miles!” My husband’s point of view- “If they can ride me off their wheel at a moment’s notice, who I am to question what they are drinking. It also may be a guilty pleasure thing, too.”

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