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Is juice a good sport drink?

By Susan Kleiner and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson

Juices are a source of fluids. Orange juice, for example, is nearly 90 percent water and is full of vitamins and minerals. Although juices count as part of your fluid requirement, you’ll feel at your best if you base your daily fluid plan on at least 5 cups (1 liter) of water and use juice to help you attain your minimum 8 to 12 cups (2 to 3 liters) of total fluids.

There are some cautions to consider regarding juice as a fluid in your training diet. In recent years, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the health benefits of fruit and vegetable juices. The makers of commercial juicing machines claim fresh juices are a panacea for all kinds of ills, from digestive upsets to cancer. But is it better to drink your five servings of fruits and veggies every day rather than eat them? No way!

In most juices, the pulp has been removed from the fruit or vegetables to make the juice. That means all-important fiber has also been subtracted, because the pulp is where you find the fiber. Granted, some juice machines boast that their process keeps the pulp in the juice to retain the important fiber and concentrate the nutrients. These products are excellent choices for a
once-a-day juice. But they still do not replace whole fruit.

Freshly squeezed juice is often touted as a better source of nutrients than commercial juices. But commercially prepared juices that are frozen and refrigerated properly are only slightly lower in nutrients than fresh juice. If you don’t buy fresh produce, don’t store it properly at home, and don’t drink your freshly squeezed juice immediately, your homemade juice may even be lower in nutrients than a well-made frozen or refrigerated brand.

Whether they are cooked, squeezed, dried, or raw, fruits and vegetables need to be a big part of your diet. If using a juice machine is one way of eating more fruits and vegetables and is enjoyable for you, go for it. But remember the drawbacks, and don’t use juice as your only source of fruits and vegetables.

If you want to drink juice to rehydrate your body, dilute it with water by at least twofold. A cup (237 milliliters) of orange or apple juice plus 2 cups (356 milliliters) of water will provide a 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate solution, similar to a sport drink formulation. Don’t use this combination during exercise, however, because of its fructose content. The body doesn’t use fructose as well as the combination of sugars in a regular sport drink. In addition, some people are fructose sensitive and may experience intestinal cramping after drinking juice. As I noted earlier, juice may interfere with fluid absorption if consumed during exercise. Instead, drink your juice–water mix as part of your fluids an hour or more after exercise. The addition of water will speed the emptying of the fluid from your stomach and thus rehydrate your body more rapidly, and the carbohydrate will help replenish glycogen. 

This is an excerpt from Power Eating.

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