Article at a Glance
- Sports drinks are mostly water, but they have been enhanced by carbs, electrolytes, and flavorings.
- Since water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes are important for your body during exercise, sports drinks were developed to give you all three at once.
- Water is always the right choice for hydration, but if you are exercising for an hour or more, sports drinks may be helpful.
Sports drinks are big business around the world. They are marketed as the best way to rehydrate after athletic activity. Professional athletes represent sports drinks on television, in print, and across social media. You can see sports drink products at almost every major, minor, and amateur sporting event worldwide. What exactly are sports drinks and how do they affect your body?
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What Are Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks are primarily made of water, but they are enhanced with carbs and electrolytes in the hopes of improving athletic performance. Each brand offers a different solution that is added to the water base. These solutions are usually somewhere between 6% and 8% carbohydrates and include electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
How Do Sports Drinks Work?
Water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes are all necessary for the human body before, during, and after exercise. Your body needs carbohydrates (carbs) for energy. Water and electrolytes are expelled through sweat during exercise and must be replaced in your body to remain healthy. Sports drinks were created to rapidly replenish all three elements at once.
Sports Drinks vs. Water
Though sports drinks have been around for almost 60 years, there hasn’t been agreement on how necessary they are. Some researchers suggest water is the better choice because of the excess ingredients in sports drinks. Other studies back the benefits of sports drinks, especially in events that last an hour or longer.
The biggest argument for sticking with water is the lack of sugars and other additives that can do more harm than good. Not only can sugars in sports drinks aggravate conditions like diabetes, they can have a negative impact on your oral health. Sugars from sports drinks encourage bad bacteria and can weaken your tooth enamel.
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The Best Sports Drinks for Athletes
There are a lot of products on the market, especially for athletes. Your needs could change depending on the type of activity you’re doing and how long it lasts. We’ve done a breakdown of your choices including some of the most popular options for sports drinks.
There are plenty of choices when you’re looking at good, old-fashioned water for hydration. Any way you choose to drink your water, it’s going to rehydrate you without the fear of extra calories or sugar. Basically, there’s no downside to drinking water when exercising. You can easily replace carbs and electrolytes with healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and granola bars.
Another option that falls somewhere between water and sports drinks is “fitness water.” Instead of adding carbs and electrolytes, fitness waters have added vitamins and minerals. Fitness waters tend to be lower calorie options than sports drinks but with more flavor than water. Propel Fitness Water is one of the most popular brands of fitness water and is available in many flavors.
When athletes compete in lengthy and/or intense competitions, like tournaments that involve multiple games or marathons, sports drinks can be a good option for quickly replenishing the things your body loses. Gatorade is probably the best-known sports drink, partially because it was the first and also because it’s widely used by many professional teams. The company has rolled out several products including low sugar and zero sugar varieties.
Tips for Choosing a Sports Drink
In some cases, sports drinks can be helpful. You may want to use a combination of sports drinks and water for the best outcome. If you’ve decided that sports drinks are best for you and your athletes, we’ve got some tips for choosing the best one to fit your needs.
- Review the sports drinks ingredients. Some sports drinks contain more than carbs and electrolytes and you want to know what you’re getting.
- Skip the sugary sports drinks. Sugar-free sports drinks are a good option if you need flavor, carbs, and electrolytes.
- Pass over the carbonated sports drinks to avoid an upset stomach.
Additional Oral Health Tips for Athletes
Accidents can happen in any athletic activity and you don’t want your teeth to suffer. Aside from being careful about what you drink, there are some other considerations for keeping your smile healthy when you’re active!
- Remember to use a mouthguard to protect your teeth, especially if you have braces.
- Keep hydrated. You should drink before, during, and after your athletic activity.
- Brush and floss regularly to remove debris and bacteria.