For years, the battle raged on in our household over what should athletes be taking to stay hydrated, perform and recover. Water! Sports drinks! No! Water! NO! Sports Drinks! Even though my business was nutrition my partner held steadfast in his belief that water was the best drink for athletes. With two sons who participate in sports at rather intense levels I was a believer that sports drinks had benefits beyond simply rehydrating.
Although I do believe that sports drinks are being overused today – primarily by people that are not exercising and are simply using them as a soda replacement – for athletes and people who tend to perspire a lot, sports drinks may be the way to go.
With the summer heat upon us many of us will face dehydration from work, play or sports. But in dealing with dehydration, the debate over whether water or sports drinks are better goes back for years.
In warmer weather, our bodies perspire more to help cool us down. Many of us won’t even realize that we’re approaching the point of dehydration. But don't rely on thirst alone to tell you how much you need to drink. To keep those muscles working and avoid fatigue; it's extremely important to drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after the activity.
A simple rule of thumb that I’ve tried to teach my kids – if you’re already thirsty your dehydrated. Thus, you need to get ahead of dehydration and start drinking before you exercise or work.
A Typical Sports Drink
A typical sports drink – Gatorade, Powerade, UnderArmour – is basically a carbohydrate drink. By providing a constant supply of glucose as energy for muscles, the ill effects of prolonged exercise like hypoglycemia, fatigue, muscle damage, inflammation and even osteoarthritic injuries can be avoided. Most mass market sports drinks, such as the ones mentioned above, provide a base amount of carbs for energy (about 14 grams) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) to replace those lost through sweating. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and UnderArmour can give you a needed energy boost during your activity. They are designed to rapidly replace fluids and to increase the sugar (glucose) circulating in your blood
The best sports drinks will provide you with a good balance of carbohydrates, and electrolytes - potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
Although the sports drinks mentioned above will serve the basic purpose of keeping you hydrated and providing some energy during the course of a workout, training session or match none are really sports performance drinks. Today, there are many solid ingredients that are well researched that can provide serious athletes with the competitive advantage. Thus, a sport’s drink containing these ingredients in optimum proportion may prove beneficial in enhancing performance.
Some ingredients to consider are:
- Caffeine: It’s been fairly well researched and documented that caffeine in the appropriate dose can improve exercise performance and tolerance.
- Cluster Dextrin: Cluster Dextrin® is a large carbohydrate molecule that rapidly enters the bloodstream as glucose to maintain steady blood sugar levels, increase stamina during exercise, and provide constant energy for high endurance sports. Another words, Cluster Dextrin exits your stomach quickly so it’s not sloshing around yet provides prolonged energy.
- Branced Chain Amino Acids (BCAA): BCCAs also have a ‘sparing effect’ on glycogen degradation during prolonger exercise. As a result, glycogen stores last longer, glucose levels in blood are maintained over a longer time thus aiding in improving performance.
- Electrolytes: It is understood that any sports drink, whether it be for your weekend warrior or your professional must contain proper amounts of Sodium (~55mgs), potassium (35 mgs), and magnesium (~12 mgs).
A sports drink containing a mixture of carbohydrates, caffeine, branched-chain amino acids, and electrolytes, and ingested immediately before or during exercise lasting for more than 2 hours may be beneficial in improving performance as well as fighting symptoms like fatigue. If you’re involved in intense physical activity or looking to “Boost” your performance a beverage containing Cluster Dextrin as a carbohydrate, caffeine, BCCAs, and electrolytes may just be the thing you need.
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