26 Oct, 2017

Drink Up, Runners!


While water can keep you hydrated on the long run, sports drinks give back the carbs, sodium and potassium lost in long-haul, high-intensity events. – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN

When you exercise, you produce heat, which your body controls through sweating, but you can then steadily become dehydrated, especially if running in high heat or humidity. As little as 2% dehydration can affect your athletic performance, so athletes are told to drink regularly and top up on fluids. Now, if you are running for less than 60 minutes, water should be enough to stay hydrated and save kilojoules, but if running longer than 60 minutes, sports drinks are recommended.

Therefore, sports drinks are recommended for endurance athletes trying to reach peak performance, especially if sweating a lot, because they provide fluids to cool down your body and replace what you lost in sweat, carbohydrates for quick energy, and sodium and potassium, the chief minerals lost in sweat.

Of course, fluid needs vary from person to person, and according to the type of activity and the length of time that you are active, but as a general rule of thumb, runners should:
• Drink one to two cups of sport drink four hours or less before exercise.
• Keep fluids with you when you run and sip regularly to replace water lost through sweat, but let your thirst guide you.
• Post-run, eat your meals and snacks and drink as you feel you need to, but especially drink up to 1.5 cups (375 ml) of fluid if you have not produced any urine, or only a small amount of bright yellow urine.
• Water is always a good option post-run, but you can also drink milk or chocolate milk, 100% fruit juice or another sports drink.

What to Look For
1. Water: Make sure your sports drink is not carbonated, so it is easy to drink and doesn’t make you feel full.
2. Sodium: The white powder on your clothes or skin is the salt you lose in sweat, and this loss can lead to muscle cramps, so sports drinks should contain at least 300 to 700mg of sodium per litre. Athletes prone to cramping may require more.
3. Carbohydrate (sugar): Sugar keeps blood glucose from dropping and helps fuel active muscles and the brain, so 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of activity can improve endurance, power output and delay fatigue. To prevent stomach problems, make sure your drink has no more than 80 grams of carbohydrate per litre, as that is generally the limit of what your body can easily absorb.
4. Flavour: Drinks with flavour are easier to swallow, especially when you’re tired.

Most importantly, experiment with a new sports drink in training first before using it in a race, as you don’t want to find out mid-race that something doesn’t work for you, or disagrees with your stomach!

About the Author
Christine is a registered dietician based in the Johannesburg area.

Christine Peters

Christine Peters

Registered Dietician |

Registered Dietician


The New Sensation

09 November 2017 - Although he is still just 22 years old, Thabang Mosiako is quickly making a name for himself by taking on and beating the ‘big guns’ on the South African distance running scene, and he ...

What a Year!

09 November 2017 - If there is one runner likely to agree with the old saying that “life begins at 40,” it is Ulrica Stander, especially given the amazingly successful year the 43-year-old Capetonian has ...

Getting Back on Track

09 November 2017 - With personal best times of 1:47.74 for the 800m, 3:59.29 for the mile, the SA national record for 5000m at 13:04.88 and 27:41.30 for the 10,000m, coupled with road PBs of 28:18 for 10km and 1:01:0...

Grateful to be Running

09 November 2017 - After two freak injuries, Samantha Schoeman is incredibly lucky not to be permanently paralysed, or to have lost a leg, but both times she fought back to fitness, and even took up trail running alo...


09 November 2017 - Just over a year ago, 40-year-old Johannesburg-based software developer Will Addison found himself in front of the mirror, and he didn’t like what he saw. That prompted him to take up running...

Not Bad for an Old Codger

26 October 2017 - Some elite athletes enjoy a relatively short career at the top level, but others seem to go on forever, even seeming to getting better with age, like multisport legend Donovan van Gelder, who can s...

The Man from Morocco

26 October 2017 - Some 23 years ago, Youssef Kanouni followed his running dreams from Morocco’s northern mountainous region to the foot of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The quiet man with an iron resolve n...

Back to the drawing board!

26 October 2017 - After being out of running for almost a year, my coach, Lindsey Parry and I decided that it was time to get back to the drawing board and do some proper base training, but we could not afford to ta...

Loving the Trails

26 October 2017 - Multi-stage trail running events continue to grow in popularity throughout South Africa, but understandably, they are usually substantially more expensive than single-day running events, as the ent...

Athletes With a Cause - October

26 October 2017 - We have so many athletes in South Africa hitting the roads and trails to raise money for or awareness of important, deserving causes, and we want to give them the publicity they deserve for their e...

Hand in Hand

26 October 2017 - Ironman couple Rodney and Melanie Nel finished the Ironman hand in hand on the red carpet in 2017, having only done their first triathlon a few months earlier, once again showing that the Modern At...

Dreaming of the Desert

12 October 2017 - The Marathon Des Sables has been called “The Toughest Foot Race on Earth,” which is not surprising, given that it’s a 250km, six-stage race through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, w...