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Do sports drinks really work?

We take a look at sports drinks, protein powders, supplements and what’s essential for exercise.

There are so many products out there being promoted for nutrition and exercise! It can be a confusing space to navigate, and it can be hard to work out what’s essential and what’s not. Today we’ll unpack why exercise drinks, protein shakes and supplements may not be needed for most physical activities.

Sports Drinks

When we exercise, we sweat out more than just water. We also sweat out minerals called electrolytes, which include salt, calcium and potassium. Common sports drinks have these electrolytes added to them during the manufacturing process and are marketed as a way of re-hydrating after exercise. Research has actually shown that sports drinks are really only beneficial for elite athletes, who are likely to lose a large volume of water and electrolytes through sweat. For most people, rehydrating with a nice glass of water is just as effective!

Protein Shakes

While protein shakes definitely aren’t essential when recovering from exercise, they can be a quick and efficient way for people to consume a high protein snack after exercising. Our muscles need a high-quality source of protein (like eggs or lean chicken) after exercising to help with recovery. Research has shown that consuming this protein within 30 minutes of exercising is the most efficient way for our bodies to absorb essential nutrients. This can be difficult for a lot of people to achieve, as our appetite is generally pretty low after exercising!

Protein shakes can be a lot easier for some people to stomach immediately after exercise, and are a convenient way to get important nutrients in. However, they can be quite expensive and can often have an unpleasant taste. Boiled eggs on toast or a tin of tuna with wholegrain crackers will still give your body all the protein it needs to recover from exercise. Try our boiled eggs with polenta as a high protein post-workout meal!


Vitamin D, beetroot juice, caffeine – there are so many different supplements that claim to boost your ability to exercise! Like sports drinks, supplements are not necessary in the general population, and positive results are only really seen in elite athletes. Most people can get all the essential nutrients needed to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, by consuming foods from the five food groups every day. These foods Include wholegrains, animal or plant-based protein, lots of fruit and vegetables, dairy or dairy alternatives and healthy fats.

You can find more on healthy eating at the Better Health Channel.

Boiled Eggs with Polenta - GAV

Boiled Eggs with Polenta

Serves 4


  1. In a medium saucepan simmer milk and rosemary for 3-4 minutes. Remove rosemary and discard. Whisk in polenta and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes or until thickened, whisking continuously. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese.
  2. Spread polenta evenly into a baking paper lined shallow 18cm x 28cm baking tray. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Cut polenta into chips. Heat extra butter and oil in a large non stick frypan over medium-high heat. Add polenta chips and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side or until browned. Drain and keep warm.
  3. Spray mushrooms with oil and place on a baking paper lined tray. Add pancetta and cook in a preheated oven at 200°C for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are softened and pancetta is crisp. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Cook frozen peas and spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and mash/puree with some of the fetta oil, season well. Gently fold through half the crumbled fetta.
  5. Arrange mushrooms on serving plates, spill with pea mixture. Add polenta chips and serve with soft boiled egg, extra crumbled fetta and pancetta shards. Garnish with rosemary.


  • 2½ cups full cream milk
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 50g butter
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 25g butter, extra1 tablespoon oil
  • 8 large field mushrooms
  • Oil spray
  • 4 slices pancetta
  • 2 cups frozen green peas
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 25g marinated fetta, crumbled, for serving
  • 4 soft boiled eggs

Sports Dietitians Australia. Sports Drinks.

Last updated: May 27, 2024 at: 2:14 pm