Sport Drinks

Sport Drinks! No doubt you’ve seen the ads. Which one do you choose? Pro athletes promote various sports drinks for fluid replacement. Not to mention enhanced recuperation and performance. In fact, athletes of all kinds tout the virtues of various sport drinks. From Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’neal, pro bodybuilders to pro football players. With all of this promo going on, it’s difficult to decide which is best. Which one do I use before, during or after a workout?

Sport Drinks – Which One?

Fluid-replacement, or sport drinks, became popular in the ’70s and ’80s with the advent of Gatorade. Not to mention, the interest in running and jogging didn’t hurt either. Since that time, scores of other drinks have come on the market. As a matter of fact, gyms no longer just have drinking fountains. They feature cafes serving the latest in fluid replacement drinks.

A Comparison Chart

Beverage Comparison Chart


Beverage CHO Source CHO Conc. (%) Na (mg) K (mg) Other Minerals & Vitamins Osmolality (mosmol/L)
Water too low low too low 10-20
Orange Juice Fru, Glu, Suc 11.8 2.7 510 A, C, B1, B2, B6, Iron & Calcium 690
Coca-Cola High Fru, Corn Syrup, Suc 11.0 9.2 Phosphorus 650
Exceed Fru, Glu Polymers 7.2 50 45 Cl, Ca, Mg, Phosphorus 250
Gatorade Glu, Suc 6.0 110 25 Cl, Phosphorus 300


*CHO = Carbohydrate, Na = Sodium, K = Potassium, Fru = Fructose, Suc = Sucrose, Glu = Glucose.

Water is optimal for short-term fluid loss. Sport drinks containing electrolytes and energy are best for lengthy workouts and competitions. Your individual workout may last only an hour or so. When combined with aerobics and sun tanning, you can lose significant amounts of water. The need for replacement drinks are as important for bodybuilders as it is for endurance athletes.

The Ideal Fluid Replacement

Many factors determine the best sport drinks. First, the intensity and duration of the sport are extremely important. Second, the climate the activity takes place in plays a role. Third, the caloric limitations of the athlete are also crucial. The ideal fluid replacement beverage should be one that tastes good to the athlete. Furthermore, it should not cause gastrointestinal discomfort when consumed in large volumes. In addition, it should promote rapid absorption of extracellular fluids. Also, it maintains fluid volume. Finally, it provides energy for working muscles.

Performance can be jeopardized by even minimal water loss due to sweating. A 2 % drop in body weight results in significant decrements in strength and endurance. In warm environments it is not uncommon for an athlete to lose 5-10 pounds in one workout. Ingesting water will return hydration levels to normal. However, there is ample evidence that consuming sports drinks maintains physiological function. As well, it provides even more performance benefits than water.

Sport Drinks – Electrolytes & Carbs


Most sport drinks contain electrolytes as well as some form of carbohydrate. Some contain fat in the form of medium-chain triglycerides for energy. Yet there is little research to suggest that triglycerides provide any performance benefits.

Of all the electrolytes sodium is most important. Sodium levels change little during light and moderate sweating. However, sodium in the fluid aids in quicker rehydration. It also enhances carbohydrate absorption. In addition, it elevates plasma sodium levels to maintain thirst and urine loss. An electrolyte concentration in the range of 300 milliosmoles per liter is similar to plasma sodium levels of 140 mEq/l. This prevents water intoxication that occurs when athletes ingest large volumes of water following dehydration.

Carb Sources

Various sources of carbohydrate are used in sport drinks. The most common are glucose, sucrose and fructose. Maltodextrins, or glucose polymers, are also popular. This is because they supply a concentrated form of carbohydrate that is readily absorbed. For pre-exercise fluids, however, plain water gets the highest rating. Ingesting sport drinks containing carbohydrates won’t enhance muscle glycogen levels when ingested just before exercise. In fact, these sweetened fluids raise blood insulin levels. This causes a drop in blood glucose levels. It also causes a drop in the amount of fats burned during endurance exercise.

Sport Drinks With Carbs – Best Intra & Post Workout

Sport drinks with carbs provide the most benefit during and after exercise. This is because they help maintain blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels. That enhances performance. After exercise they also aid in rapid resynthesis of muscle glycogen stores. This helps promote faster recuperation. In addition, flavored, sweetened drinks encourage voluntary fluid consumption. Moreover, doing this helps ensure adequate fluid intake.

Sport Drinks – Glucose & Sucrose

Glucose, sucrose and maltodextrin yield similar results in terms of intestinal absorption, cardiovascular and thermoregulatory responses. This improves performance. Fructose takes longer for your body to convert into blood glucose. It appears to be more beneficial in post-exercise sport drinks rather than during exercise. The optimal quantity to ingest is 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrate for each hour of exercise.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking four to six ounces of a 6 percent solution. You should drink this  every 15 minutes during exercise. This helps you meet these carbohydrate and fluid requirements.

Guidelines for Maintaining Proper Hydration During Training and Competition

  • Do not restrict fluid before, during or after exercise.
  • Avoid beverages containing caffeine and alcohol because they increase urine productions and add to dehydration.
  • Weigh yourself without clothes before and after exercise, especially during hot weather. For each one-pound lost, drink two cups of fluids.
  • Drink 2.5 cups of water two hours before training or competition and then drink another 1.5 cups of water 15 minutes before.
  • Drink one cup of fluid every 20 to 30 minutes during exercise.
  • Sport drinks consumed during and after exercise should contain sodium to replace lost body fluids and maintain thirst and 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate to maintain blood glucose levels and replace muscle glycogen stores.

These guidelines suggest that Gatorade and other sport drinks are best for rehydration during and after exercise. In fact, this is based on scientific research. As discussed above, water is best to hyper hydrate the body before exercise. This is because, unlike products that contain glucose or sucrose, there’s no detrimental changes in insulin or blood glucose levels. In addition, once you’re dehydrated, your thirst mechanism will not compensate adequately for fluid losses. Use these guidelines and you will maintain proper fluid and energy levels. Finally, sports drinks will maximize your performance and workouts.

Here’s a few good choices – check them out! While you’re here, you can do all your supplement shopping!

Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier – I’ll Pump You Up (

MTS Nutrition NaturaLyte – I’ll Pump You Up (


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