Do you need a Sports Drink?

With every big sports event, we will usually see our favourite athletes grab a bottle of their favourite brand of sports drink to quench their first during those brief moments in between races or games. Inspired by our greatest sports men and women, many of us also reach for a sports drink during a session at the gym or a running session. But what are sports drinks and do the general public need to incorporate one into their gym routine? My blog today explores the different types of sports drinks and their ideal uses:

What are sports drinks?

The definition of a sports drink according to the British Soft Drink Association is “Sports drinks are functional drinks specifically designed to help athletes and other active people hydrate before, during and after exercise.” (http://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/Sports-Drinks). These drinks have added minerals to ensure optimum replacement of lost nutrients through sweat.

There are three types of sports drinks:

  • Hypotonic
  • Isotonic
  • Hypertonic

Hypotonic

Hypotonic sports drinks are designed to replace fluids quickly during exercise. They contain very low amounts of carbohydrate and a high concentration of sugar and salt.

Isotonic

Isotonic sports drinks are designed to quickly replace fluids lost during exercise. In comparison to hypotonic drinks, they contain higher amounts of carbohydrate and lower amounts of salt and sugar.

Hypertonic

Hypertonic sports drinks are designed to supplement daily carbohydrate intake. They contain the highest amount of carbohydrate and lowest amount of salt and sugar out of all the drinks. This type of drink is best drunk after exercise so it can help replace glycogen levels quickly after exercise.

When should I use a sports drink?

The general guidelines for sports drinks are to be used if you are training for 90mins+ (as you are more likely to burn more energy that needs to be restored) and if it is a hot day or particularly sweaty workout (as you will lose more salt through sweat). Otherwise, you should be fine with water.

What about diet sports drinks?

Diet versions of sports drinks are sweetened with sweetener rather than sugar so they have a lower carbohydrate content. That means they will not be suitable for restoring carbohydrate levels lost during an intense workout. You can use them for quenching your thirst during shorter, less intense workouts. However, make sure to check the ingredients list of these drinks. Some contain sweeteners such as aspartame which have been linked to ailments such as weight gain and cancer.

My homemade sports drink

I have started to include a sports drink into my 2x 2 hour long dance and gymnastics training sessions to give me a bit of a boost and to re-hydrate (Michelle from DNAFit recommended I should get around 30g carbohydrates from a sports drink during these longer sessions). I decided to make my own so I have control over the ingredients in it. Here’s how I make it:

  • 250ml fruit juice (not from concentrate) – can be orange, pineapple, apple, etc.
  • 250ml water

I do have to say that I find including my sports drink comes in handy when I have 2 hour training sessions and I do get a boost (in a natural way). The point I am trying to make is that if you have a long or sweaty training session, you may benefit from a sports drink. The important thing is to listen to your own body and see if it works for you as they may not benefit everyone. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with good old water.

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