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Sports Drinks

What is a Sports Drink?

A sports drink is a beverage that contains carbohydrates and other supplements to help replenish fluids and nutrients used during vigorous exercise and sporting events.

Sports drinks are available in a variety of flavors. Some are pre-made liquids while others are mix-it-yourself powders.

Types of Sports Drinks?

  1. Isotonic Fluid
    • Electrolytes and 6-8% carbohydrate Quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate.
    • Choice for most athletes (middle and long distance running or team sports).
  2. Hypotonic Fluids
    • Electrolytes and a low level of carbohydrate quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating.
    • Suitable for athletes who need fluid without the boost of carbohydrate such as jockeys and gymnasts.
  3. Hypertonic
    • High level of carbohydrate
    • Used to supplement daily carbohydrate intake normally after exercise to top up muscle glycogen stores.
    • Suitable for ultra distance events where high levels of energy are required and hypertonic drinks can be taken during exercise to meet the energy requirements.
    • If used during exercise, hypertonic drinks need to be used in conjunction with Isotonic drinks to replace fluids.

How fast will the body absorb the Sports Drink?

There are two main factors that affect the speed at which fluid from a drink gets into the body:

  1. Carbohydrate Level
    • The higher the carbohydrate levels in a drink the slower the rate of stomach emptying.
    • Isotonic drinks with a carbohydrate level of between 6 and 8% are emptied from the stomach at a rate similar to water.
  2. Electrolyte level
    • Sodium and potassium in a drink will reduce urine output. Reduced urine output enables the fluid to empty quickly from the stomach, promotes absorption from the intestine and encourages fluid retention.

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes serve three general functions in the body:

  1. Many electrolytes are essential minerals.
  2. Electrolytes control osmosis of water between body compartments.
  3. Electrolytes help maintain the acid-base balance required for normal cellular activities.

The sweat that evaporates from the skin contains a variety of electrolytes. The electrolyte composition can vary from person to person but is generally:

Sports Drinks with Multiple Carb Sources

(per 8 ounce serving)

Product NameCarbohydrate
Amount in Grams
AcceleradeSucrose, fructose, maltodextrin17
All SportFructose, sucrose19
CytomaxFructose, maltodextrin, polylactate, glucose19
EnduraGlucose polymers, fructose15
GatoradeGlucose polymers, fructose14
GU20Maltodextrin, fructose13
PoweradeFructose, sucrose14

How to pick a sports drink that is best for you?

There are many different brands of sports drinks. Make sure you get a sport drink that works best for you by trying different brands, flavors and potencies.

Also, ask your fitness trainer and/or doctor if you need them.

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