The Truth about Sports Drinks

We’ve all seen athletes swigging on sports drinks and we often see people in the gym doing it too, but are these drinks really better than water, what do they do, and should we be drinking them? Find out as we demystify sports drinks and their place in your exercise regime.

Generally, sports drinks claim to be able to help you rehydrate after your workout and to help your replace electrolytes, valuable minerals and carbs. They are touted as a kind of wonder drink that will help you recover or give you the boost you need to continue. But do they work?

Understanding Sports Drinks Types

To a degree, yes. Sports drinks DO work and they do offer you benefits. That’s because they generally contain ingredients that are beneficial, such as minerals like sodium and potassium, and fluid retaining electrolytes. These minerals are often lost when you sweat; so replenishing them will help you recover faster.

Generally, you’ll find 3 types of sports drinks on the market, and these are as follows:

Hypertonic: Geared towards boosting your carb intake and maximizing your energy level.

Hypotonic: Geared towards rehydration and replacing fluids that have been lost during exercise. These drinks are often high in salt and in sugar.

Isotonic: Also aimed at replenishing fluid levels, but generally with higher carbohydrates to boost your energy levels at the same time.

The Sugar Factor

One of the biggest debates as to whether sports drinks are a help or a hindrance are the amount of sugar they often contain. Plus, they also usually have artificial colouring and sweeteners or flavourants that really don’t do you any favours. They are synthetically manufactured too, so they may well not be doing your body any good.

If they are no sugar or low sugar then the chances are they also have sweeteners or aspartame in them, and these synthetic sweeteners are just as bad as sugar, only on a different level.

Are Sports Drinks Better Than Water?

We’ve already admitted that yes, they do work, BUT when it comes to pitting sports drinks against water, most experts have to agree that water always wins. But this is also a major source of controversy as so many people swear by sports drinks.

Science however says that an hour-long workout certainly isn’t enough to deplete your electrolyte or glucose stores to the point of needing an artificial boost, and even professional athletes don’t really justify needing them.

It has also been proven that sports drinks cannot match the hydration powers of water, and that at the end of the day, water is imply the best hydration source, every time. So regardless of whether you are playing at or running a marathon, water will hydrate you in the same way.

The Verdict

While not completely useless, we have to accept that sports drinks offer more of a psychological boost than a physical one, and that the sweeteners and carbs in them give you a false sense of security.

They may well be useful after a long workout or when you need a pick me up, but water is always the better option, and will do just as good a job; if not better.