By Mike Pomranz
Updated December 01, 2015
© Angie Knost / Alamy Stock Photo

Sports drinks say they can aid athletic performance, but it’s often unclear what magical ingredients might be hiding within those neon-colored liquids. Well, a new paper suggests the best ingredient for sports drinks might not be that magical at all – it’s just table sugar.

Researchers from the University of Bath working with a team of cyclists discovered that these athletes found their workouts easier and felt better when they ingested sucrose-based drinks compared to those with glucose. These findings are significant because even though more sports drinks include sucrose, many still only rely on glucose as their primary source of energy.

“We found that the exercise felt easier, and the gut comfort of the cyclists was better, when they ingested sucrose compared to glucose,” lead researcher Javier Gonzalez was told The Guardian. “This suggests that, when your goal is to maximize carbohydrate availability, sucrose is probably a better source of carbohydrate to ingest than glucose.”

The researchers’ suggestion: You can make your own optimal sports beverage for endurance workouts of over two and a half hours by simply diluting table sugar in water. (They suggest consuming 90 grams of sugar per hour diluted at a rate of 8 grams per 100 milliliters.) Sure, it won’t be colored some crazy neon hue, but the health benefits of neon are still dubious at best.