Sports drinks have become very popular today. Some are produced by large multinational companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who spend an exorbitant amount of money to market them. Yet they are the subject of controversy, as there are many who question their relevance and effectiveness. Are they glorified soft drinks or are they effective in performing their advertised purpose? Are they healthy? If so, what are their benefits? Sports nutritionists are the most suitably equipped experts to answer this question.
Sports drinks can be effective and healthy if used according to their purpose –to invigorate the body after strenuous exercise. Some experts go as far as saying that they can be lifesaving. The reason is that the alternative to sports drinks, water can only hydrate the body—it cannot replenish electrolytes adequately, which are lost by sweating during exercise and are vital for the body’s optimal function. If a professional athlete, such as long distance runners, replenishes bodily fluids only with water, a rare condition called hyponatremia can occur due to the lack of sodium in their body. A practical rule to follow when thinking about how much exercise is required in order to benefit from a sports drink is after an hour or so, or even less, if very intensive exercise occurs.
On the other hand, when physical exertion is not involved, for example if someone wants a drink to accompany a meal or snack, sports drinks are not recommended and can even be unhealthy.
How To Tell What Sports Drink Is Suitable For Exercising
The market has a significant number of products that are sold as sports drinks, but not all are true to their purpose. A proper sports drink has the following ingredient concentration per 8 ounces (approximately):
- 100 milligrams sodium
- 30 mg potassium
- 15 grams carbohydrates
- No artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.
Athletes and fitness amateurs alike should be wary of drinks with added artificial ingredients, since they can cause a number of adverse effects, including stomach upsets and headaches.
On a similar note sports drinks should not be confused with energy drinks, which contain different ingredients, such as stimulants (e.g. caffeine and ginseng) and higher amounts of carbs and sugar.
Popular sports drinks are: Powerade, Gatorade and Reliant Recovery Water. Also note that some companies sell their mixtures in water soluble form (powdered or tablets).
Homemade sports drinks
Sports drinks can be made at home, a practice which has two additional benefits: they can be customized according to one’s personal fitness plans and tastes.
There’s a number of recipes for sports drinks. Many can be found in online recipe repositories. But here a few general guidelines and ingredient examples.
First of all, the mixture must contain the right balance of ingredients, similar to the above mentioned concentration, or else the drink may be ineffective at replacing electrolytes and could cause cramps or stomach problems. A recipe can contain enough ingredients to allow for enough bottles for a week. A typical homemade sports drink is made by mixing apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, water, ginger for flavor and fruit juice (optional, if extra carbohydrates are needed). If a person has different tastes, they can discard ginger, or they may opt for reduced sweetness by adding less maple syrup.
Another benefit of homemade drinks is that they can be affordable.
It should be clear by now that a sports drink can be beneficial, depending on the ingredients’ concentrations and its intended use. Fitness-minded people and professional athletes should consider carefully the sports drinks that are available and choose one that will best fulfill their purpose. An alternative, cheaper, solution is a homemade drink, which offers customizability.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advise. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.