IS SUGARCANE JUICE THE BEST DRINK FOR EXERCISE?

Your alarm clock’s ringing and you wake up to another day of intense training as your journey to be your best self continues. Your morning routine is calculated, efficient, and takes into account the best practices nutrition and fitness science has discovered to date. At the foundation of everything you do for your body is hydration. With over 50% of your body composed of this natural molecule, it only makes sense to continuously replenish yourself with it.

As the decades have gone by, particularly since the commercialization of Gatorade—leading to the booming sports drink market—plain old water simply hasn’t been good enough. The complexity of our bodies demands more than basic hydration as we put our bodies to the ultimate test. With that knowledge in hand, there is demand for the optimal hydration solution pre-, during, and post-workout. During exercise, it has been well-documented that sports drinks outperform plain water. Thanks to their carbohydrate and electrolyte compounds, sports drinks offer the body more blood glucose, and therefore less reliance on the final energy source, muscle glucose.

One of the most important aspects of post-workout recovery is muscle glycogen resynthesis. Muscle glycogen is like the fuel you put into a car. When your body is idle, your glycogen stores remain full with minimal depletion as you go about your day. Once you begin to exert your body beyond what’s typical (a.k.a. exercise), you begin using up your fuel (muscle glycogen). As your tank gets closer to “empty,” your energy level will fall and muscle fatigue will set in. Oftentimes, we relate to fatigue as a prime indicator to call it quits and try again another day. This is a sound approach to avoid overexertion, and therefore long-term damage, to your muscles and joints. When you find your tank is empty, in your car or your body, what’s the next logical step? Refuel.

For your car, you simply head over to the gas station, fill up, and you’re back on your merry way. Is it possible to restore your muscle glycogen just as quickly? Not in a matter of minutes like your car, but you can have your body back up and running in an exceptionally short amount of time. With the proper nutrition and hydration program in place, you can be doing two-a-days as if you’ve had two days of rest. For now, we’ll leave the nutrition conversation for another day. When it comes to hydration, you might be surprised to find the usual suspects, water and sports drinks, actually rank second and third behind the more powerful solution—sugarcane juice.

Muscle glycogen resynthesis demands carbohydrates—glycogen is the form in which your body stores this macronutrient. Immediately, it should be realized plain water contains zero percent of this muscle fuel and will do little in replenishing the body with glycogen. This is what made sports drinks so revolutionary when they came on the scene in the 1960’s. And, although science has found many ways to enhance our lives in ways nature cannot, the lab has yet to win this challenge outright.

In a potentially groundbreaking study performed in 2013 and published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, sugarcane juice could be the winning solution in most efficiently and effectively restoring muscle glycogen post-exercise.

This study found, as previously stated above, that the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis is dependent on the consumption of carbohydrates. This dependence is optimized when your hydration solution contains 5-10% carbohydrates. So, what makes sugarcane juice the number one choice when it comes to glycogen resynthesis? And, why have scientists not already discovered a solution in the lab?

To quickly revisit why plain water simply isn’t the most effective solution, all that needs to be considered is where muscle glycogen resynthesis is happening. Since, there is nothing in water itself, the body has to rely on its internal functions to replenish muscle glycogen stores. With limited resources, the body can only replenish these stores at a homeostatic rate. Whereas carbohydrates coming from external sources like a sports drink or sugarcane juice allow the body to have an extra resource to more quickly perform glycogen resynthesis.

It should be noted that the difference in the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis is quite small between the three beverages, but in competition, the difference between first and second can be no more than a few seconds. With sugarcane juice, it was shown during the first five minutes of post-recovery, the blood glucose levels showed the greatest increase compared to all three beverages.

Imagine competing in a triathlon or Iron Man competition where the transition points from swimming to cycling to running often result in a brief moment of low-intensity movement. Now imagine if you chose to consume sugarcane juice during this transition. Your muscle glycogen resynthesis can get to work more quickly and produce a boost in performance when accelerating to your desired pace.

While everyone else is relying on water and other sports drinks, you will confidently move ahead of the competition knowing the hard work you are putting in on the race course is maximized thanks to the hard work happening inside your body.

With the results of the study cited here, there is great potential for further scientific work to be conducted in evaluating the positive benefits sugarcane juice can have on exercise performance. As this powerful, natural beverage proves more and more to be a premier health solution, we might find sugarcane juice replacing all of our previous daily beverage options.

One of the great opportunities for anyone looking to make a switch is to test out these beverages within their own workout regimen. Why not spend the next three weeks (testing each drink each week) and discover for yourself what works best? We would love to hear about your results and discover the great impact sugarcane juice can have on other athletes like you!