Fortified to Thrive


Jul 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

THE CLAIM: Caffeine and guarana (a cocktail of caffeine and other stimulants that comes from Brazil's guarana plant) stoke up a serious workout buzz, allowing you to exercise more intensely. They also sharpen your focus. "During a race, my mind goes a little fuzzy," says Peter Reid, two-time Ironman Hawaii champion. "The caffeine in my gel restores my focus and makes my senses clearer."
THE TRUTH: It's no wonder Alberto Tomba gulped espresso right before his ski runs. A shot of caffeine will improve alertness and reaction time, and studies have shown that the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee raises your exhaustion threshold by five to eight minutes. Meanwhile, caffeine's much maligned diuretic properties are not really an issue for athletes. "Caffeine is a diuretic only if you sit on your butt," says Terry Graham, department chair of nutritional sciences at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. "Exercise within four hours of ingesting it and you nullify its dehydration effects."

The problem is that many of the popular buzz drinks, like Red Bull, are sugar bombs. Consume more than 25 grams of sugar in such a small serving and you're in trouble. "You can't get any benefits from glucose until it reaches your bloodstream," says Graham. "And high sugar levels prevent that from happening."

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