Sports drinks are more popular now than they’ve ever been. We see both professional and amateur athletes using them. We think we should use them too. But do they do any good? To know if they’ll work for you, you need to know what they do.
Why do people use sports drinks?
When we exercise or do vigorous activity, we sweat. This cools down our bodies. But it also depletes certain nutrients that help us. Sports drinks were developed to replenish our bodies with these nutrients. This allows our bodies to function properly and stay hydrated.
What do sports drinks do?
Sport drinks supply the body with carbohydrates and electrolytes. These are the nutrients that help provide energy and keep your muscles working properly.
Carbohydrates provide your muscles with energy. This allows them to continue to work hard. The simplest carbohydrates are sugars. These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose. Sports drinks contain some of these sugars. This gives your body instant energy so it can keep working.
Electrolytes are nutrients that keep your body fluids in balance. This allows your muscles to work the way they should. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Not having enough electrolytes in your body can lead to muscle cramps and headaches. These minerals are lost through sweat. Sport drinks put them back into your body.
Path to improved health
How do you know if a sport drink is right for you? In most cases, water is all you need. Regular or moderate exercise does not deplete your body of nutrients. The only time you should consider sports drinks is when you are vigorously moving for 60 minutes or more. Examples of this type activity include:
- Long-distance running or biking.
- Playing high-intensity sports like soccer, basketball, or hockey.
- An extended workout session that lasts more than an hour.
- Exercising in high heat and humidity that causes you to sweat more than normal.
Some research suggests that drinking sports drinks during these kinds of activities can boost your endurance. This helps your body to keep working at a high-functioning level. It won’t wear out as quickly.
Things to consider
Sport drinks aren’t the only way to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes. Eating a balanced meal after exercise also helps. Milk, in particular, is a good source of potassium, carbohydrates, and protein. It can help your body recover faster. Applesauce and bananas also provide electrolytes and carbs.
Children don’t need to drink sports drinks. They get all the nutrients and hydration they need from a healthy diet and water. Many kids like the taste of sports drinks. If it’s the only way you can get them to drink, you can:
- Dilute sports drinks with water.
- Dilute 100% fruit juice with water.
- Give them water with sliced fruit in it, such as oranges or strawberries.
Sports drinks contain sugar. That means they contain calories. This can lead to weight gain. Avoid drinking them if you are trying to lose weight.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Are there any toxins or harmful ingredients in sports drinks?
- Are some sports drinks better than others?
- What about fitness water or coconut water? Are those good alternatives to sports drinks?
- How much water should I drink when I work out?
- Are sports drinks good to fight dehydration from sickness, such as vomiting or diarrhea?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.