Is it food junk or a way to improve performance?

Is it food junk or a way to improve performance?

This seems simple: Eat some sports food if you want to do well in your training. Sports food is a range of bars, drinks and meals specifically designed to give energy and nutrients to the working body. Many foods claim to be sports food but, in reality, have no nutritional value.

Sports food products can have similar nutritional counts to other packaged foods that healthy eaters might avoid. Many brands that market to athletes have a health halo, which gives the impression that they are healthier than they are. Sports food is not the only option when compared to other options.


Sports gels are sugar. They taste the same as Skittles. Why not grab some Skittles instead? The colourful candies will give you the same sugary energy boost as the Skittles. Still, many gels also have sodium, B vitamins, or branch chain amino acids added to them to replenish what your body has lost during exercise. In addition to providing nutrition, a gel is easy to consume during training. Skittles and other foods can be scattered everywhere and require more effort to swallow.

Sports and soft drinks are other examples of how sports food can be considered junk food. A can of Coke has 140 calories and is not considered a performance food. It’s the same as two scoops of Skratch Labs Hydration sports drink mix or one bottle of Gatorade. These brands are performance-enhancing. Although the sugar content is the same, the specific hydration options for sport provide more sodium to replenish what has been lost through sweat. It is crucial to replenish electrolytes as athletes can lose a whole day’s worth of sodium in just one workout. The difference between winning a 5K race and losing it in a sprint might be a fraction, but the difference between junk food and sports food might be as small as a few trace minerals.


Many athletes use oatmeal as a pre-workout meal because it is simple to digest and high in nutrients. Instant packets have a bad reputation because they are too processed and sugary. This has led to athletes switching to more sporty brands.

You don’t have to be a foodie here. These oatmeal packets are perfect for athletes who are on the move, have limited budgets and need pre-workout energy. They offer better performance nutrition than popular brands that use expensive, sport-specific blends. PickyBar oatmeal has more fat, carbohydrates, and protein than a packet of instant oatmeal. Your body requires more carbohydrates and sodium before exercising and less calories from fat and protein.

Many performance foods contain highly processed ingredients. Combat Crunch Bars, often promoted to bodybuilders as high-protein options, contain approximately 20 highly processed ingredients. You could get the same protein by eating a single serving of cottage cheese. This is a less processed option that has five whole-food components.

Avoiding high-processed sports foods is a good idea. However, it should only be done when travelling or unable to access fresher ingredients. Whole foods should be eaten in their original place if they are available. You can choose packaged foods with minimal processing and few ingredients if you cannot eat whole foods.


Some sports food is too much. Drink mixes 400 calories per serving (the equivalent of a large pumpkin spice latté) and bars containing 50% of the daily recommended amount of saturated fat (Think: 2 glazed muffins) are all examples of excessive food. It would help if you always read the nutrition label to ensure you are getting what your body needs to train, eat healthily and maintain a healthy body. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best choice for your individual athletic needs.

It is up to you, the consumer, to research what you eat and compare it with non-sport options to decide what is best for you, your budget, and your performance. Sometimes, switching to whole-food alternatives can boost your body health, while other times, it is important not to forget the performance benefits of eating sports foods.

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