Sports drinks have become a popular fixture in modern athletics. It’s not uncommon to see a professional athlete drinking one of these during the course of a game. However, how healthy are sports drinks, what’s in them, and what should you really be drinking?

Although water makes up the majority of what’s in sports drinks, there are other ingredients too. Typically, these include carbohydrates and electrolytes. These carbohydrates are glucose, sucrose, or fructose, which are sugars. Between 6-8% of a sports beverage will be carbohydrates. However, there are brands that advertise low carb or zero-carbohydrate options.

The other ingredient, electrolytes, are minerals that your body needs to function. They are called electrolytes because they are electrically charged minerals. These include potassium and sodium.  

Besides carbohydrates and electrolytes, sports drinks are comprised mainly of water. It is estimated that a typical adult male requires 3.7 liters of water each day while an adult woman needs 2.7 liters daily.

So, the question is, if you are an athlete do sports drinks help? In general, athletes lose water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes through exercise. Your body burns carbs for fuel, while the electrolytes and water are lost through sweat.

For those who participate in short-duration exercise, the results are mixed as to whether or not sports drinks help. One study found that sports drinks improve the performance of athletes cycling for an hour by roughly 2%. Those who consumed sports drinks while playing team sports or intermittent exercise did see some benefit as well.

Sports drinks are the most helpful for those participating in extended, continuous exercise.  This is exercise lasting between 1-4 hours or more. That is because the carbohydrates in sports drinks replace fuel burned by the body. 

However, for most people who are not high-performing athletes, sports drinks are unnecessary. Nor are they needed if you do weight training. In fact, these drinks can actually cause you to gain weight. Instead, focus on staying hydrated.

Want to learn more? You can read the full post here:  Should You Drink Sports Drinks Instead of Water?