Sports Drinks

Published On: 19 August 2013Categories: Sports DrinksTags: , , , , , , ,

swim4 (2) sports drink

Sports drinks can be an aid to any athlete looking to get an edge on their competitors or to get the best out of a training session. Studies have shown that sports drinks, when compared to water, can promote hydration and improve performance in intense and/or endurance based exercise such as cycling and running time trials. Sports drinks can either be used as a hydration method or to provide energy.

Hydration drinks are used to replace fluid and electrolytes that are lost through sweating. The aim is to increase the rate of hydration so they are more effective than drinking just plain water. They also contain some sugars to maintain blood sugar levels. Energy drinks provide carbohydrate in the form of sugar which is usually in the form of maltodextrins. They provide an energy source for the body whilst it is exercising and also enhance absorption of water to increase hydration status.

Sports drinks can be categorised according to their osmolality. This is a measure of the number of particles (such as sugars and electrolytes) that are dissolved in the liquid. The osmolality of the drinks can affect how readily they are absorbed by the body and therefore how hydrated you are. The different category of drinks are outlined below:

  • Hypotonic drinks have very low osmolality which is less than 4g of carbohydrate per 100ml of liquid. This is less than the composition of the body’s fluids which means that the fluid is absorbed faster than just plain water.
  • An isotonic drink, which is what is typically associated with sports drinks, has the same osmolality as the fluids in the body. It is absorbed as fast as plain water is absorbed and drinks of this composition are said to be the balance between hydration and refuelling the body with energy. Most commercial sports drinks will contain between 4g to 8g of carbohydrate per 100ml.
  • Hypertonic drinks are drinks that contain more than 8g of carbohydrate per 100ml of fluid and are usually soft drinks containing lots of sugars. They are absorbed more slowly than water so are not ideal for hydration purposes.


There are lots of drinks available and different flavours to try so experimenting and finding one that you enjoy and works best for you is important if you are looking for an alternative drink when exercising instead of just water. One problem with sports drinks is that they can dissolve your tooth enamel when compared to drinking just plain water. So if possible, it is important to rinse your mouth with water after drinking a sports drink and drinking them chilled as they are less erosive when cold. Sports drinks can be very beneficial for intense activities and especially in hot and humid weather when sweat losses are increased. Dehydration once it reaches 2% loss compared to your bodyweight can have a negative impact on performance so adding a sports drink into your training programme or competition routine can ensure you perform to your best.

Please feel free to contact the G4 Didsbury Clinic (Manchester) to speak to a member of our diet & nutrition team for any questions that you may have or if you wish to arrange a consultation to discuss your diet, nutrition and lifestyle.


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