Blog By: Aishwarya Ghumekar
As you chug down your favorite sports drink after a long workout to rehydrate, have you ever wondered what exactly is in that bottle? To understand the effects of a sports drink on your body, take a look at the main components and what each one does to help your performance.
This may seem intuitive, but good ol’ water is the key to rehydration! The goal is to drink enough fluid to replenish what was lost during activity, and the main component of sports drinks—water—allows for this.
At high intensities and for long-duration exercise, carbohydrates (sugars) are the primary fuel source for your muscles and brain. After exercising for longer than an hour, blood sugar and glycogen (your muscles’ energy reserves) levels begin to deplete. Because the body has limited carbohydrate stores, this is where a sports drink can come in handy.
Current guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that sports drinks contain a 6–8% carbohydrate concentration because this level is isotonic with blood (meaning they contain similar amounts of salt and sugar as blood), allowing the body to absorb the fluids faster.
If you want to reduce your sugar intake, there are numerous low-calorie, low-sugar and even sugar-free sports drink options on the market that do a great job at rehydrating, especially for shorter and lower intensity workouts. Since these options contain significantly less sugar than their higher-calorie counterparts, low-calorie or reduced-sugar sports drinks are less ideal for fueling muscles before, during and after particularly tough or long workouts.
3 Tips for Sipping Sports Drinks
Proper hydration is necessary before, during and after an intense workout. While plain water is an effective way of hydrating your body before activity, a sports drink can provide you with a needed energy and performance boost during a longer workout.
- Two hours before a workout, drink 16 ounces of water. If planning on working out at a high intensity for a long duration, you may benefit from sports drinks or a high-electrolyte drink before training.
- Aim to drink 4–6 ounces of water or a sports drink every 15–20 minutes. This will help you maintain good hydration. After prolonged activity, sports drinks quickly replenish levels of electrolytes lost to sweat, as well as help restore proper fluid balance.
- For tough workouts lasting more than 1 hour, consider drinking 16 fluid ounces of a sports drink for every pound lost through sweat. Consuming sports drinks immediately following activity can be advantageous as compared to plain water if your electrolyte levels have been significantly depleted during the training session. With all the fluid-replacement options on the market, experiment with which drinks hydrate you the best for your workouts.