We cannot underestimate the importance that water plays in our body – it makes up 60% of our body weight. It regulates body temperature, protects sensitive tissues, and provides cushions to joints. That’s why drinking enough water is essential because every single cell, tissue, and organ in our body depends on the proper hydration in order to function optimally.
When our body lacks water, it’s known as dehydration, which can lead to a range of adverse effects from simple dizziness to shock (and even death).
Hydration depends not just on the amount of water entering your body, but also on the amount of water exiting your body. The water exits our body through breathing, sweating, and urinating.
When you exercise or do any moderate physical activity, you sweat. Sweating depletes your body of water. During an intense workout or a challenging sports activity, you sweat even more – and the more you sweat, the more you lose body fluids and, ultimately, the more you need them.
But during such intense activity, you need more than water to replenish your lost body fluids. You could need more water, but that is not enough. And that’s where sports drinks were created. So, why should you drink sports drinks instead of plain water to hydrate yourself while doing an intense workout or sports activity?
If you ever watch sports, you may have seen athletes, such as baseball players, gulping down brightly colored drinks before, during, or after an intense match. Those are sports drinks, which are not only a significant part of athletics, but also a big money-maker in the sports industry.
Sports drinks provide an excellent source of energy, but not all sports drinks are created equal. While many people believe that sports drinks are the elixir that enhances an athlete’s overall performance, others warn it’s a mere marketing gimmick and you should stick with water instead.
How does dehydration affect your body?
Imagine doing an exercise or intense workout without taking fluids, you’ll be likely to encounter any of the following signs of dehydration:
- Early-onset fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Low energy
- Increased body temperature
- Faster breathing and heart rate
- Decreased exercise capacity
As you can see, dehydration can affect you physically and mentally, limiting the amount of exercise you can do.
We all hear the old-age advice about drinking eight glasses of water a day. However, you should also consider your age, gender, body size, and the amount of physical activity to determine how much fluid you should take. Athletes under training, for example, need more water than a person with a sedentary lifestyle.
Water consumption is still a priority. However, there are times when our bodies need extra sugars and electrolytes to maintain their energy and hydration during an exercise, workout, or any intense physical activity.
When should you choose sports drinks over water?
Water is still the most recommended and preferred fuel when doing some light exercise and workouts or having a rest day. Activities under 60 minutes do not require a sports drink.
But if you have a very active lifestyle, do intense workouts, and exercise for 60 minutes and longer, your body will need the electrolytes to replenish the fluids lost from your body through sweating.
While sweat primarily consists of water, it also carries significant amounts of electrolytes, chloride, and sodium. The more intensely you work out, the more you sweat, losing those essential fluids and nutrients along the way. Thus, you must require proper hydration by taking high-quality sports drinks.
In a similar manner, our brains and muscles depend on glucose (sugars) as our source of energy, especially after long and exhausting training. Being dehydrated can negatively impact our overall performance and lead to early-onset fatigue. While healthy eating before starting any strenuous activity is an excellent way to fuel up and replenish your energy, eating during exercise is not usually advisable.
Sports drinks are the most recommended and convenient way to hydrate and consume essential nutrients during an intense workout, exercise, or any strenuous activity. A carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage drives up your energy and athletic performance by raising blood sugar, maintaining high carbohydrate oxidation levels, and ultimately, inhibiting fatigue and decreasing perceived exertion.
The different types of sports drinks
As said before, not all sports drinks are created equal. If you’re new to sports drinks, you may be surprised that there are not one, not two, but three types of sports drinks. Depending on how active your lifestyle is or how intense your workout sessions are, any one of these different types of sports drinks should suit your specific needs:
- Hypotonic – Hypotonic sports drinks are designed to quickly replace fluids lost during exercise or a workout. They are typically low-carbohydrate and have a higher concentration of salt and sugar than the human body has.
- Hypotonic – Isotonic sports drinks are similar to their hypotonic counterparts. They are designed to replace lost fluids during a strenuous activity quickly and have the same high salt and sugar concentration. The difference is the significantly high carbohydrate content.
- Hypertonic – Hypertonic sports drinks usually supplement the body’s daily carbohydrate intake. They’re formulated with significant amounts of carbohydrates to maximize energy delivery to fuel your high-intensity activities.
Remember to look at the label!
Once again, not all sports drinks are the same (some are added with L-carnitine that can help reduce belly fat). It’s easy for the consumers to get confused what’s really beneficial for their bodies. We always recommend checking the nutrition facts in every sports drink for the right ingredients.