Are sports drinks an essential piece to a sports nutrition plan? We all know that hydration is important, especially if you are an active individual, but why and how?
We need water in our bodies to help control our body temperature, eliminate metabolic waste, deliver nutrients, cushion our joints and organs, and much, much more. In sport, proper hydration can improve your reaction time, reduce fatigue, and can even decrease your perceived level of effort. However, for those of us that are very active, water on its own might not cut it.
Sports drinks contain a mixture of water and electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and chloride and can also contain some glucose, or sugar. Electrolytes are needed for muscle contraction, the nervous system, and management of our bodies’ pH. When we exercise, we lose both water and electrolytes through our sweat. Without enough electrolytes, you are at a higher risk of muscle cramps and even over hydrating with water.
In general, the rule of thumb is that when you are active beyond one hour, you may want to have a sports drink. Other scenarios where sports drinks may be appropriate is if you are a heavy sweaty, a salty sweater, or are exercising in the heat. See our other post HERE for more details on why hydration is so important in sport.
So, you think you should introduce a sport’s drink into your hydration plan. What are the options and what should you choose?
Here are our five of our favourite sports drink options to help support your training and performance:
One option is the Hydration Drops from Buoy. These drops come in a small, portable squeeze bottle that can be easily thrown into a purse or gym bag. They contain contain electrolytes, trace minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Buoy drops are vegan and free of major allergens. We like Buoy drops because they unflavoured meaning you can add them to whatever you are drinking. They also do not contain any artificial sweeteners or colours unlike many other options out there.
Drip Drop is another electrolyte drink option that is great for sport. Drip Drop is an electrolyte powder that comes in portable, single serve packets. Drip Drop come in a variety flavours such as lemon lime, watermelon, passion fruit, and fruit punch. The powders come come in sugar free options, but having some carbohydrate in your sports drinks can be important to help fuel your body throughout your activity. Finally, Drip Drop is vegan, gluten free, and soy free which may be important for some athletes.
Nuun has several electrolyte products that can help support your hydration. Nuun has flavoured electrolyte tablets in addition to electrolyte powders that come in individual packets or in a tub. Some of the products contain added vitamins and all are sweetened with stevia leaf extract. All options are dissolved in water to give you a flavoured sports drinks. Nuun products are vegan, gluten free and low in sugar. Nuun products are also Informed Choice meaning they have been tested for banned substances.
Although there may be some benefits to the above options, Gatorade is a reliable and easily accessible hydration option as well. Liquid gatorade comes in many flavours and varieties. If you are avoiding artificial sweeteners, we recommend regular old gatorade or Gatorade Fit over products like G2 or Gatorade Zero. Gatorade also offers some powdered options like Propel and Endurance Gatorlytes which are also free of artificial sweeteners and colours.
Finally, we have water! Water is of course a great option for keeping yourself hydrated before, during, and after activity. However, again, sometimes water alone is not enough to support your training and recovery. Rather than purchasing sports drinks you can always make your own electrolyte drinks at home. Alternatively, you can include a salty snack like pretzels with your water during or after activity, especially if you are a candidate for integrating sports drinks as we mentioned above.
Sports drinks can be a great option for active individuals. If you think you could benefit from introducing more electrolytes into your hydration plan, consider one of our suggestions. If you feel like you could use support with developing an individualized hydration plan to support your performance, consider speaking to a sports dietitian. See our dietitian services HERE for more information.