How to Choose a Sports Drink
How to Choose a Sports Drink
Sports drinks can play an important role in performance and recovery by replenishing water and electrolyte losses from sweat and to provide you with a fuel source. First it is important to know if you fall within the category that would actually benefit from using a sports drink. If you are just hitting the gym for 60 minutes and you don’t have another training session or race after you can most likely replace your losses with a snack and glass of water.If you are doing high intensity training for more than 60 minutes or have multiple training or race events in one day a sports drink may be crucial to replacing your losses and aide in optimal performance and recovery. So if the latter describes you it is important to make sure you choose the right sports drink that works for you.
The main ingredient is sports drink is water and that is because you can lose a lot of water through sweat. Individuals who train outdoors in the heat or who wear a lot of sports gear may be at higher risk for dehydration. Signs of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, abdominal cramping and severe dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and in very severe cases delirium. So it is very important to stay adequately hydrated throughout your training or race.
The second ingredient to be looking for is the amount of carbohydrate or sugar added- this is your fuel! Too much sugar may lead to GI upset and too little may not replenish your glycogen stores and negatively impact performance. In order to best replenish your glycogen stores without the GI upset look for a total carbohydrate concentration of 5-8 g per 100 ml. You also want to choose a carbohydrate source that does not contain or contains little fructose. Fructose may not be absorbed as easy and may lead to abdominal cramping or diarrhea in some individuals (examples of fructose include: fruit juice, honey, corn syrup).
A good sports drink will also contain sodium and potassium. Sodium can be lost in sweat and should be replaced and it plays a role in water retention and absorption to reduce risk of further water loss. Potassium plays a role in muscle contraction and should be replaced when sweat losses are high. Most sports drinks like powerade and gatorade contain the proper amount of both sodium and potassium. Coconut water on the other hand contains high levels of potassium but does not contain enough sodium or carbohydrates. It is important to read the nutrition fact label on sports drinks to make sure it contains all of the crucial ingredients mentioned above (carbohydrates, potassium, sodium). It is also important that you don’t try a new sports drink on race day and that you experiment with any new sports drinks or supplements during training to ensure your body can tolerate it.
If you have more questions on how to choose a sports drink that is right for you and your activity book an appointment with your local dietitian.
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