a decade or so, and the debate about what to drink while exercising was limited
to water vs Gatorade. Nowadays, there's no shortage of
beverages competing for the lucrative fitness market.
of these products aren't just promoting their ability to keep athletes hydrated
while on the run, bike or swim. The sports beverage market has segmented itself
into products designed for before, during and after exercise.
you really need three different sports drinks to fuel a workout? Or, is the
sports drink market more about hype than hydration?
ABCS OF SPORTS DRINKS
before the sports beverage market segmented itself, scientists grouped sports
drinks into three distinct categories: isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic.
drinks replace fluids and electrolytes in a ratio similar to what is lost
through sweat. Quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, they also top up glycogen
stores in muscles running low on energy. Popular brand name examples are
Gatorade and Powerade.
drinks replace fluids only and are without the added electrolytes and
carbohydrates found in isotonic drinks. Water and vitamin waters are popular
drinks contain higher quantities of sugar and salt than the fluids lost through
exercise and often include added ingredients like protein to refuel and rebuild
depleted muscles as well as rehydrate after the race. Chocolate milk, coconut
water, fruit juice and recovery sport drinks are popular examples.
AND WHAT TO DRINK
which type of sports drink is right for you depends on the duration and
intensity of your workout.
you are heading out for a 30-minute walk on a cool day, chances are you aren't
exercising at an intensity that causes significant sweat loss or muscular
fatigue. If you're sufficiently hydrated to start, you probably don't need to
drink much more than a glass or two of water before, during or after your walk.
you're running a marathon, on the other hand, you'll need more than water to get
you to the finish line. An isotonic drink will keep you hydrated, refuel your
muscles before energy levels get to a critical level and replace electrolytes
lost through sweat. The amount you need to drink is related to the amount you
sweat, but general guidelines suggest hydrating regularly with sports drinks
throughout the 42-kilometre distance.
for after the marathon, hypertonic drinks refuel and repair tired muscles and
make the day after feel just a bit better.
the hydration and energy needs at these two opposite ends of the exercise
spectrum is pretty easy. It's everything else in between that gets a bit
to the pitch of energy-drink manufacturers, the bulk of fitness enthusiasts who
work out for less than 60 minutes taking fitness classes, going for bike rides,
running around the neighbourhood, swimming laps in the local pool or playing
old-timers hockey don't need to drink anything more than water before, during
and after a workout.
only exception to the 60-minute rule is exercisers who work out at a high
intensity for less than an hour (weightlifters, athletes). They may benefit from
consuming a post-workout hypertonic drink that replenishes energy stores and
helps rebuild muscle.
infusion of carbs and protein aids recovery in anticipation of the next workout
or game, which is especially critical if it occurs within the next 24 hours or
less. Keep in mind that food can offer the same benefits, but for best results
(be it liquid or solid) make sure to refuel within 45 minutes of the end of your
reason all of this is important isn't just to dispel any confusion about what to
drink and when, but to help exercisers make smart choices. Isotonic drinks carry
a significant calorie load that is fine for exercisers who need them. But for
those who don't, the approximately 130 calories per 500ml serving found in most
commercial products (which are sold in bottles holding at least two servings)
may be unwanted. Or in terms you can better understand, if you've burned 300
calories during a 45-minute workout, finishing off with a sports drink can
negate almost all of your hard-earned calorie burn.
drinks like chocolate milk often carry an even heavier caloric load. As for
caffeine-laden energy drinks, there's no science to suggest that they offer any
more pep than a cup of coffee, which is less expensive and contains fewer
calories than an overly sweet energy drink. Parents should also take heed of
recent warnings from health officials that energy drinks are unsuitable for
children and youth.