Sports drinks – pros and cons





We are inundated  with advertisements displaying the latest benefits of sports drinks, often  with promises of improved sporting performance. If I look around the gym I see many people aimlessly swigging brightly coloured liquids, but are they helping or hindering them in their aims?

Sports drinks are  made up of 90% water, the rest is carbohydrate in the form of glucose, fructose and or maltodextrin.  Some also have electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium & magnesium.

The water content of a sports drink replaces fluid lost through exercise. In addition, the carbohydrate within a sports drink will be used instead of that already stored in our bodies in the form of glycogen.  This will then also help maintain levels of blood sugar, which  ultimately leads to us being able to exercise for longer before we run out of energy.  The electrolytes found in some sports drinks will help replace some of those lost in sweat, the main one being salt.

When and for who is a sports drink beneficial?

In an hours worth of exercise it is accepted that we are likely to burn approximately one gram of carbohydrate per minute.  As such, anybody continually exercising for one hour plus would benefit from a drink containing approximately 45-60g.  This would be the equivalent of about 750ml.  This also applies to one hours worth of a stop start game such as football.

In sports/exercise lasting less than one hour, research has shown that low blood sugars are not the limiting factor but more likely fatigue is caused by an accumulation of substances such as lactic acid

In conclusion then research would appear to suggest that if you are exercising for less than 60 minutes the need for a sports drink is very small.  It won’t improve your performance but instead will lead to the ingestion of added calories.  So if your primary aim of exercising is look good naked or you are exercising for less than one hour, stay clear of those brightly coloured potions.  What to have instead?  Mmm, get a empty bottle, turn on the tap, fill it up and off you go – A lot cheaper too!

Categories: Nutrition

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