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Sports drink category boost from new triathlon research?


A new study by the University of Bath is said to be the first such study to show significant improvement in Olympic distance triathlon performance with carbohydrate ingestion. The support from the academic study gives credibility to the use of sports drinks in triathlon, particularly in Olympic/international distance races over the standard 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run.

This latest focus on the role of sports nutrition on triathlete physiology reflects the growing participation of triathlon in the UK and on the international stage. The latest research also underlines how few research studies have focused on nutrition and physiology within the triathlon space. It is staggering, as the Bath Uni paper points out that ‘The well-established ergogenic benefit of ingesting carbohydrates during single-discipline endurance sports has only been tested once within an Olympic-distance triathlon.’

The study also comes at a time (and may offer some support) to a UK sports nutrition industry that is coming under pressure, with a plan to levy VAT on sports nutrition products put forward by the UK government.

Bike-to-run a go-go!
Researchers at the University of Bath’s Department for Health state that they have shown for the first time that ingesting a carbohydrate sports drink during an Olympic-distance triathlon improves performance.

A team of researchers from the Bath Uni’s Human Physiology Research Group set out to examine whether a carbohydrate drink had a greater effect than a flavoured-water placebo when given to triathletes. According to the team, only one previous study, carried out over 20 years ago, looked at carbohydrate ingestion during triathlon and found it to not have any significant benefit.

However, carbohydrate is the major fuel source during exercise and is well established as an aid to physical performance during single discipline events such as swimming, cycling and running. Dr Kerry McGawley, who led the study along with Dr James Betts and University of Bath graduate Oliver Shannon, found that by increasing the amount of carbohydrate ingested during the cycle ride resulted in a 4% improvement in the post-bike run.

Dr McGawley noted that “This is the first study to show a significant improvement in triathlon performance with carbohydrate ingestion.”

The paper published Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism can be viewed online.