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Sports Drinks Basics

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With so many makes and types of Sports Drink on the UK market it is easy to get confused about what to buy. This short article aims to give you the basic tools that you need to decide what kind of drink that most fits the type of training you are doing. Sports drinks are mainly used for two reasons, to replace lost fluid and/or to replace depleted carbohydrate stores within the body. If you are exercising for less than 90 mins generally water is the best sports drink you can have. Over this point is where the bodies energy stores start to get depleted so a drink containing carbohydrate would be more suitable.

Exercise sessions upto 90 minutes long
For exercise sessions up to 90 mins you should try and drink 250ml of water for every 15 mins of exercise. When you move into sessions lasting over 90 min, you should look at swapping to an isotonic sports drink.

Different sports drinks
So what is the difference between all these sports drinks? Sports drinks generally come in three concentrations, Isotonic, Hypotonic and Hypertonic. This refers to the concentration of the drink.

Isotonic sports drinks
Isotonic drinks have a fluid concentration similar to that of the blood. Therefore it is quickly absorbed into the blood stream, helping to prevent dehydration and also providing energy in the form of simple sugars. It can take up to 10 mins for an isotonic drink to work through your system to the skin, as sweat. It is advisable to start drinking 10 mins before you need the carbohydrate and fluid boost when using this type of drink.

Hypotonic sports drinks
Hypotonic drinks have a concentration that is lower than the blood. Therefore these drink are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. Water is hypotonic but, there are very few other hypotonic sports drinks currently on the UK market.

Hypertonic sports drinks
Hypertonic drinks have a higher concentration than the blood, and this causes water to move out of the blood into the stomach to dilute them. This can cause dehydration. Generally these are drinks with a carbohydrate content of greater than 8%. These are generally soft drinks that are just marketed at the sports market. Due to the water movement effect that these drinks have it is generally un-advisable for the regular exerciser to use them.

Salt in sports drinks
Sports drinks generally contain an amount of salt. This is useful as it helps replace salts lost in the form of sweat, and also acts to aid fluid absorption in the small intestine. Replacing salt is also important after a work out, if you have not fully replaced your salt stores you will find it more difficult to full re-hydrate.

Don’t forget water
When looking at the use of sports drinks you should also give careful consideration to your general levels of hydration. If you are not drinking enough water throughout your day, this will have a knock on effect on your hydration levels during physical activity. You should ensure you are drinking about 2 litres of water a day (8 glasses).

Ensuring you are correctly hydrated during a workout session is vital to ensuring that you reap the optimum benefits from the workout.

Tom Godwin is the Managing Director of Foresight Fitness Services, based in Manchester. He has been working within the wellbeing industry for 10 years, and works with a wide range of clients to help them achieve their wellbeing goals. Tom would love to hear you comments or your questions, or have a look at the blog (