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Raisins just as effective as sports chews for workouts

A recent study suggests raisins are just as effective as sports chews in fuelling runners. (Thinkstock)It appears the value of some sports health products have been questioned as of late. Two recent studies challenge the effectiveness of both sports chews and sports drinks, respectively.

In the first study -- published this week in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition -- researchers claim swallowing a handful of raisins is just as effective for fueling a workout as downing a couple of sports chews.

And unlike the manufactured energy enhancers, raisins pack in all the good stuff naturally.

"Raisins are a great alternative to sport chews as they also provide fiber and micronutrients, such as potassium and iron, and they do not have any added sugar, artificial flavor or colors," says professor James Painter, nutrition research advisor for the California Raisin Marketing Board

Also see: Healthy foods are cheaper than junk food, so why are we so fat?

Researchers at the University of California-Davis tested the endurance of a group of runners by giving them raisins, sports chews, and nothing but water, respectively, over a period of seven days.

They found that runners who ingested either the raisins or the sports chews ran their 5K allotment one minute faster than the athletes who just drank water beforehand.

The findings promote the idea that nature can help provide athletes with the boost they need, instead of relying on engineered lab creations.

The second study -- published last week by the British Medical Journal --- challenges the idea that sports drinks are any more effective than water. This report says there is "strikingly little evidence" fancy supplements, sports drinks and expensive sneakers enhance athletic performance.

Also see: Canada ranks mid-range out of the world's most inactive countries

Researchers from Oxford University analyzed the data from 101 pharmaceutical trials on sports drinks and found the quality of the evidence to be poor.

"The size of the effect is often minuscule.... Basically, when you look at the evidence in the general population, it does not say that exercise is improved [or that] performance is improved by carbohydrate drinks," lead researcher Dr. Carl Heneghan tells BBC

Popular sports drinks, while good sources of performance enhancing carbohydrates and electrolytes, are also laden with sugar, calories and chemicals.

However, Canadians don't seem to mind that their pre-workout beverages are fluorescent blue. Market research shows that in 2011, retail sales of sports and energy drinks grew by 8 per cent to reach $827 million in current value terms.

While it's doubtful those sales will drop any time soon, it may be worth looking in to more natural alternatives to rehydrate, replenish and rebuild.

Watch the video below about how to prevent an eye injury among kids playing sports.
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