Do I need to drink sports drinks?
Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or an elite sportsperson, staying hydrated during exercise is vital. Your body is after all made up of 60% water, and it has an integral part to play in everybody function as a result.
While exercise is important for your health and well-being, it’s common to lose a vast amount of water when exercising. Just one hour of exercise can cause fluid losses of one to two litres, and this fluid must be replaced to ensure your body remains in peak condition.
Sports drinks have become the go-to beverages during exercise. Here we delve deeper into this popular hydration choice and reveal why it isn’t your only option for guaranteeing healthy hydration before, during, and after a workout.
What do sports drinks contain?
Sports drinks are popular with fitness lovers and professional athletes alike. They claim to provide all people need to push themselves to their limits during exercise, reducing the dehydration that can cause fatigue during exercise.
There are three main types of sports drinks available. The majority contain a mixture of carbohydrates, caffeine, and electrolytes – the latter of which we included in our recent rundown of top drinking water trends.
Do they really work?
Each of the main ingredients of sports drinks unlocks different benefits. First, let’s look at electrolytes.
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that are found naturally within the body. Sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate are all electrolytes and sports drinks boost your body’s electrolyte levels to unlock further advantages. The main benefit of drinking electrolytes is the quick restoration of lost fluids.
Carbohydrates are also found in sports drinks, an addition that has been heavily researched in recent years. Here Planet Science discusses the impact drinking carbohydrates can have on performance:
“Tests found that cyclists performed better after rinsing a carbohydrate solution around the mouth before spitting it out, compared to rinsing with a sweetened drink containing no carbohydrate. Carbohydrate receptors in the mouth activate brain regions believed to be involved in reward and motor control, according to recent research. Most sports drinks contain carbohydrates glucose and fructose, which muscles use as a source of energy.”
When should I drink sports drinks?
Whatever your sports drink of choice, drinking before, during, and after exercise is the key to complete hydration. You should drink steadily throughout the day and top up fluid levels at least 15 minutes before your workout. To keep your energy at optimum levels, carry on drinking throughout your workout.
Post-workout your quest for better hydration shouldn’t stop. Restore fluids further and help your body recover faster by hydrating some more.
The best alternative to sports drinks
The problem with sports drinks is that whilst they contain a number of additions to improve performance, they also contain a lot of added sugar. Water is, in fact, all you need to stay hydrated during a workout if you are exercising for less than one hour.
If you plan to exercise for longer or are completing a particularly strenuous regime, then adding squash to a cool bottle of filtered water is an alternative that’s just as good and far less expensive. Squash (not low sugar products) and a pinch of salt can be used to make your own sports drink. This will be free from the mountains of sugar and additives you find in shop-bought versions.
Hydrating after your workout with these water-rich foods will also provide the fluid boost you need.