Sports drinks and energy drinks have become a popular substitute for water over the last 20 or so years. They are sold in almost every supermarket, corner shop and even schools. They’re advertised by most sports magazines and all sports television, usually with a high profile athlete in the mix as well.
But are these sports drink actually any good and are they any better than water?!
We’ve got Lucozade, Powerade, Gatorade and all sorts of strange coloured drinks with different flavours that will satisfy most taste buds. There are other sports drinks that are on the market that have differing amounts of electrolytes and additives. All reportedly improve athletic performance.
Back in 1965 a group of specialists from the University of Florida began pioneering sports drinks to encourage their athletes to fight tired muscles without performance-enhancing drugs. Fair enough, right? Although, what they found was that athletes who used the sports drinks became dependent upon them. Their research found that after having used energy drinks 90% of athletes then preferred them to water after a tiring activity. Something to do with the sugar me thinks?!
The original intent of sports drinks was to be used during an activity to help the athlete continue and not to refuel after an activity. Post athletic activity refuelling is indeed important and can be accomplished successfully without the addition of the empty calories found in sports drinks. In fact drinking them without exercising intensely will lead to rapid weight gain, often the opposite effect that a client is trying to achieve. Yet many people are lured in by the fancy advertising of these sports drink companies.
Sports drinks are not an alternative to water, which is the major component of the body. They are stimulants, which help the athlete to continue to work, but they will never replace re-hydration with water. In fact, using a sports drink after an activity without also using water will lead to dehydration.
Most sports drinks contain carbohydrates to fuel muscles and supplements to replenish fluids and nutrients. There are three types of drinks. Isotonic that sustains energy for middle and long distance events; hypotonic that is best for jockeys and gymnasts; and hypertonic for ultra-distance events and used with isotonic drinks.
The difference in each of these sports drinks is the amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes. The higher the level of these additives the slower they empty from your stomach and the longer you feel full.
So which is better: sports drinks or water?
The answer lies in the amount of time you’ll be exercising, your drink preferences, and your pre-exercise hydration level.
Without a doubt water hydrates best for people who are exercising between for 60 minutes and under. If you’re exercising for over 60 minutes and sustaining athletic performance is important then this is when sports drinks are beneficial, howover only the true endurance athletes really need sports drinks to replace their sodium loss from sweat.
If your goal is fat loss and your using one of my training programs to achieve this you certainly don’t need any of these silly-ade drinks.