When you exercise, you produce heat, which your body
controls through sweating, thus cooling the body, but you are then at risk of
becoming dehydrated. Athletes can lose anything from 400ml to two litres of
sweat in just one hour, especially if running intensely, or running in high
heat or humidity. As little as 2% dehydration can hurt 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
will be enough to stay hydrated and save kilojoules, and sports drinks are not
needed, because research shows they only offer benefits to people exercising
for longer than one hour. Therefore, sports drinks are recommended for
endurance athletes trying to reach peak performance, especially if training
hard, sweating a lot, and wearing protective equipment and clothing, because
Fluids to cool down
your body and replace what you lost.
Sodium and potassium,
the chief minerals lost in sweat.
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 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
cup (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. Ultra-endurance 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.
SPORT DRINKS VS ENERGY DRINKS
The typical energy drink contains more carbohydrate
than the typical sports drink and gets most carbs from one or two sugars, such
as high fructose corn syrup. Because of this, energy drinks are more likely
than sports drinks to cause a stomach upset during exercise. Many energy drinks
are also carbonated, further increasing the risk of GI distress. Furthermore, energy
drinks usually contain caffeine, which can boost athletic performance, but most
sports drinks do not contain it because your body becomes used to it with
regular use and it loses its boosting effect.
Most importantly, it is important to try a sports
drink in training first before using it in competition, as you don’t want to
find out mid-race that something doesn’t work for you, or disagrees with your