Sports Drink Comparisons, Water or Sports Drink, Which Sports Drink Should I Choose?
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Sports Drinks Vs. Water
Confused about whether you should choose water or a sports drink to replace your lost fluids during exercise? Well, you are not alone. You have probably been bombarded by all of the advertisements and product claims by sports drinks. Let's start out by answering the question...what is a sports drink? Sports drinks are a combination of water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes (e.g. sodium and potassium). Not only do sports drinks provide the necessary fluids an active person needs but they can also help maintain stamina in events or exercise sessions lasting longer than 60 minutes. This is done by providing a small amount of carbohydrate to the working muscles. Sports drinks actually enhance fluid absorption in the small intestine due to the glucose and sodium content. Therefore, sport drinks can have a positive effect on performance and are recommended for events or exercise sessions lasting longer than one hour.

However, if you are not exercising for at least one hour then you do not need a sports drink and water is the best source of fluid for you. Best of all, water is free and it will adequately replace any lost fluids for the average person exercising less than one hour! However, if you do not like water and will not drink it after exercise then you would be better off drinking a sports drink for the simple fact of fulfilling fluid replacement needs. Many people do find that the better the liquid tastes the more they can drink and research has proven this point.

Some commonly asked questions about sports drinks and fluid needs:

  1. Question: How do I pick out the best sports drink for me?
    Choose a sports drink that is 5-8% carbohydrates or 50-80 calories per 8 oz with 120-170 mg sodium. Beverages with higher carbohydrate content (e.g. sodas, orange juice) are too concentrated and delay absorption. As you evaluate different sports drinks you should look for a sports drink that replaces body water losses, provides fuel if necessary, tastes good, and does not give you any GI discomfort.

  2. How much do fluid needs change for someone who exercises regularly?
    Good question, the common recommendation for 8 glasses of water a day is for sedentary individuals. Hopefully, you are not sedentary so you will need approximately 10-12 glasses of water per day including the following fluid recommendations for exercise. Drink 1-2 cups 2 hours prior to exercise Drink 1-2 cups 15-20 minutes before exercise Drink 1/2-1 cup every 15 minutes during exercise (this is the best time to benefit from a sports drink) *Replace each pound of weight loss with 2 cups of water or sports drink following exercise

  3. How do I know if I am drinking enough fluid during the day?
    First of all you want your urine to be clear and pale yellow. This can vary depending on use of supplements and medications. Secondly, if you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated so don't use thirst as an indicator for fluid needs. Drink regularly throughout the entire day. Some signs to look for if you think you might be dehydrated include fatigue, dark urine, headaches, loss of appetite, flushed skin, and light-headedness. So, do not wait until you are thirsty to drink!

  4. Does it matter what kind of carbohydrate the sports drink contains?
    Yes, glucose and sucrose have been found to improve performance. But fructose has been known to cause cramps, stomachache, diarrhea, and bloating in some people that have a "fructose intolerance".

  5. Do you have any sports drink recipes for those of us on a budget?
    Yes, below is a good recipe. Drink up! 8 oz ice water or caffeine-free lemon tea 1 tablespoon sugar Pinch of salt (1/16 teaspoon) 1 ounce orange juice or 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot tea or a little hot water. Add juice and remaining ice water or tea. Drink cold for best taste. Serves 1.

Fluid Replacement Beverages

(Per 8 oz serving)
(CHO gms)
Carbohydrate Ingredient
Gatorade Company
50 14 6 110 30 Sucrose,glucose,
Powerade® Coca-Cola 70 19 8 55 30 High fructose corn syrup,
glucose polymers
70 19 8 55 55 High fructose corn syrup
66 16 7 25 50 Glucose polymers, glucose, fructose
Cytomax® Champion Nutrition 66 13 5 53 100 Corn starch, fructose, glucose
Exceed® Weider Health & Fitness 70 17 7 50 45 Glucose polymers, fructose
10-K® Suntory Water Group, Inc. 60 15 6 55 30 Sucrose, Fructose
Quickick® Quick Kick 67 16 7 100 23 High fructose corn syrup
1st Ade® American Beverages 60 16 7 55 25 High fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, fructose
Coca-Cola® 103 27 11 6 0 High fructose corn syrup, sucrose
Orange Juice 104 25 10 6 436 Fructose, sucrose, glucose
Water 0 0 0 Low Low None
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