We all want to keep well hydrated and perform at our best, whether on the sporting field or sitting at our desk. So when and how much sports drink is needed? And who needs them, if at all?
Sports drinks generally come with around 6% carbohydrate along with the most common electrolytes lost in sweat, mainly sodium, potassium and chloride. The carbohydrate usually used is sucrose which is table sugar. The sugar aids with absorption of fluid and provides energy during exercise. But do you need the extra energy? Energy replacement during exercise is generally only needed when the activity is high intensity and greater than 90minutes in duration. For these events sports drink can provide performance benefits fuelling and rehydrating the athlete in one. If backing up with intense sessions daily and/or if you have high energy needs then sports drink might be part of your regime .
For many of us sports drinks are not needed because we can obtain most of our electrolytes from food, sodium is found in table salt found in many foods (bread, cheese, spreads, sauces, processed and canned foods), potassium is found in fruit and vegetables and we can drink water, avoiding the excess sugar.
Sports drink do have the advantage of providing some flavour for those who wont drink enough water to keep hydrated. The electrolytes also stimulate thirst to make you drink more which is important for intense, longer course events. It may be appropriate to have a combination of water and sports drink or an oral rehydration fluid, which is lower in sugar, generally around 2% carbohydrate and higher in electrolytes. Your needs are individual. An Accredited sports dietitian can help you work out your needs. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/
Replacing water is the key. Use sports drink if you need water, electrolytes and sugar in a session and use water for your fluid and your diet for energy and electrolytes otherwise. The latter is where most of us fit in.
Simone is an experienced Sports Dietitian having worked for the last 10 years at Hawthorn AFL Football Club and previously with the Australian Cricket Team, Melbourne Storm, Melbourne City, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Rebels clubs. She works at Swisse Wellness, consults to the food industry and runs a private practice in Melbourne. For more on Simone and her services see her website here