Time to Rethink Sports Drinks?

There are so many sports drinks available these days, but do we really need them?

What is in Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks are specially formulated for people working out at high intensities for extended periods of time. These people need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, quickly.

Sports drinks come in ready-to-drink and powdered forms. They contain a mixture of carbohydrates (or sugars – usually between six to eight percent), electrolytes, minerals and occasionally vitamins. Sports drinks can help to delay fatigue in athletes working out at high intensities by topping up blood sugar levels with the carbohydrates (sugars) in the drink.

Are Sports Drinks Right for You?

If you’re exercising for less than 90 minutes you’re better off drinking plain water to hydrate yourself and replace any fluids lost through sweating.

Reaching for a sports drink after a 60 minute workout may not be the best choice. The sodium in these drinks acts to increase your thirst so that you drink more. This is great for athletes intensely working out for a long time as it helps encourage fluid intake and slows down the rate of dehydration. But they are an extra source of sugar, sodium and calories if you don’t need them. They are also flavoured so that they are easy to consume in large quantities and often have added colourings.

There are no performance or recovery benefits if you are working out for less than 90 minutes that cannot be reached by having a nutritious snack after your workout. Try orange slices, grapes, yoghurt or a glass of milk as a post-workout snack.

The Bottom Line

If you are exercising for less than 90 minutes and find yourself reaching for a sports drink it may be time to rethink. Plain water is effective for replacing lost fluids when exercising for less than 90 minutes. The extra sugar, salt and calories in sports drinks can easily add up if you do not need it.

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