Sweetened Hydration

A good mechanic will always recommend additional products to use for your vehicle to boost its performance. Fueling your car alone is not enough. You must introduce lubricants like engine oil and other additives for optimum engine performance like Octane Booster. Just like the vehicle, your body needs additional sources of hydration that contain substances that will improve your performance.

Whether you are on the tracks competing or practicing, your main concern as an athlete is to remain appropriately hydrated, with water being the frequently used substance. However, is water the only source of hydration?

A good number of people may think that drinking water is the only way to remain hydrated, but we have a good number of alternative substances, sports drinks being one of them.

Think of sports drinks as the engine oil or Octane booster your car engine needs to perform better. They do not take away the value and need for water, but instead add on to the benefits water has to your hydration. Sports drinks contain the right balance of carbohydrate, electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) and fluid to adequately fuel your body during exercise and provide fluid for hydration.

The frequent concern for athletes is why they need to consume sports drinks if water is available. Sports drinks help with the replenishing of glucose, fluids and electrolytes lost during strenuous events as well as enhance durability. To understand the benefits, it’s important to understand what they are made up of.

Sports drinks contain; Water which is the main component; Carbohydrates in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose, which provide a fuel source for muscles and the brain; Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. The sodium content of sports drinks encourages fluid and increases absorption and fluid retention. The potassium content helps maintain electrolyte balance and can assist with muscle contraction during exercise; Flavor from low calorie sweeteners which encourage voluntary intake, allow fast hydration and absorption.

Another concern for athletes is when to take sports drinks. They can be taken before events to boost fluid and fuel intake. The carbohydrate in sports drinks increases carbohydrate availability, while the added sodium may reduce urine losses before exercise begins. They can be taken during events to provide energy to your muscles. They are also useful when taken after events or exercise to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and help to replenish glycogen stores.

When consumed appropriately, sports drinks can be advantageous for athletes in ways such as:

  1. Electrolyte balance: When you sweat, you lose electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, and chlorine. Sports drinks help to replenish these electrolytes to prevent nausea, muscle cramps, dizziness, and confusion.
  2. Prevents dehydration: They help in replacing lost fluids and preventing dehydration especially for endurance athletes.
  • Provides energy: Presence of sucrose, fructose and glucose translates to a higher carbohydrate profile which enhances gastric emptying, intestinal fluid absorption and fluid delivery thus increasing carbohydrate oxidation resulting in improved endurance performance.

Sports drinks Vs Energy drinks. Be keen to read the ingredients and to not confuse the sports drinks with Energy drinks. Energy drinks are higher in sugar and caffeine to keep the consumer alert, but are likely to cause stomach upsets during an event and can affect athlete performance.

In conclusion, sufficient fluid intake is essential for physical activity be it for fitness, muscle building or improving endurance. If planning to exercise or engage in a sports activity for 1 hour or more, are prone to sweating excessively, or are active in hot climates, a sports drink with carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium may be something worth considering if your goal is to perform at your optimum best.

Image courtesy: indulgeinhealthyliving.blogpost.com

By Eunice Nthenya,

Certified Nutritionist, MSA Nutrition Expert  

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