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-At the end of a long ride, I see salt crystals on my helmet straps and clothing. It is very reasonable to me for that to be replaced in a controlled manner throughout the ride.
Now, I understand how a guy playing a sport for an hour or mowing the yard does not need a sports drink. I believe the consumer product "gatorade" does not need to exist. However, a need for an easy way to deliver energy and electrolyte to the endurance athlete does exist.
Do we stop using our brains while waiting for the next study to tell us what to do? Sports drink is a simply convenient and controlled way to deliver what our bodies lose during long endurance activity.
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Even among cyclists, a small number participate in events lasting longer than 2 hours.
An even smaller number participate in events lasting longer than 7hrs (avg)
An even smaller number participate in events that are multiple days (Furnace Creek 508 or RAAM, for example)
Its core message is that drinking sports drinks while sitting at the desk, playing football in the park or going for a 20 minute jog is not worthwhile. And the drink will erode your teeth and bank balance while making you fat if you drink enough of it. Nothing new there.
It does not say that people who are doing a 3 hour bike ride in 30 degree heat would be better off with water. If you really want to know how much difference sports drinks make then you can conduct your own 'badly designed' and 'subject to bias' test using one probably male athlete to see what happens. My own personal result is that sports drink is better than water in hot conditions, but that cola is preferable as a get you home drink if you run out of energy in the last 10 miles of a ride.
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