Should we avoid energy drinks after exercise?

Energy drinks have become ubiquitous in most gyms, yet new research suggests rather than refreshing us they may cause further dehydration and even interfere with kidney function.

The impact of soft-drinks’ on kidney health when consumed during and after physical exertion was recently assessed and found disturbing results. When exercising in the heat, blood flow through the kidneys is reduced to help regulate blood pressure and conserve water. It is a normal response and causes no harm. However, a steep drop in blood flow through the kidneys can in some circumstance cause acute kidney injury (AKI) because of the accompanying drop in oxygen supply to the tissues, so it’s no surprise that exercise, in general, but particularly in higher temperatures, increases biomarkers of AKI. What’s worrying is research also indicates high-fructose soft drinks have increased AKI risk in rats experiencing dehydration. Putting these findings together led to research on people and found those drinking soft drinks rather than water displayed increased levels of creatinine in the blood and reduced glomerular filtration rate, both of which are markers for AKI. Also, participants in the soft drink trial were shown to be mildly dehydrated and had higher levels of vasopressin — an antidiuretic hormone that increases blood pressure.

The conclusion: the consumption of soft drinks during and following exercise in the heat does not rehydrate, with researchers recommending further investigation into the long-term effects of soft drink consumption during exercise in the heat and its relation to the risk of kidney disease.

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