Roxanne E Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietitian and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. Many athletes become dehydrated because they dislike plain water. Aside from water sports drinks are preferred source of hydration for two reasons.
Sports drinks offer flavor, research shows that adult athletes tend to drink about 25% more of a flavored beverage like a sports drink compared to water, whereas kids will drink about 90% more and thus stay better hydrated.
Water also contains no electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are lost in sweat. The sport drink provides just enough to help replace these losses, but they're really not designed for people exercising for less than 90 minutes.
For athletes that exercise for more than 90 minutes and or who sweat excessively, you want to look for sports drink that contains at least a 100 milligrams of sodium and 28 mg of potassium per 8 ounces or every one cup.
Sports drinks also offer a source of carbohydrate to help replenish glycogen stores. Remember glycogen is a stored form of carbohydrates in the muscles and liver. Without stored glycogen the athlete will crash, now some people call this bonking.
Consuming sports drinks that contain a source of carbohydrates is a simple way to both maintain hydration as well as maintain those glycogen stores, which in turn sustains performance.
An ideal sports drink contains about 18 grams of carbohydrate for every one cup or eight ounces. If you review a label on a common sports drink, first you want to note the serving size, look for it to be about eight ounces.
Next, take a look at the total carbohydrates; you then want to compare this to juice which has double the volume of carbohydrates for one cup. Athletes should avoid juice before and during exercise to prevent stomach upset, cramping, and loose bowels. It's simply too much carbohydrate at one time for the gut to digest and it can impede fluid absorption.
Another tip for hydration, you can make your own sports drink by combining a half a cup of juice with one half to one cup of water. This helps to dilute the carbohydrates in the juice and it's pretty economical.
Another tip for athletes is that you should avoid drinks with fizz or sodas and caffeine before and during performance. Sodas and coffee may cause irritability as well as extra gas or bloating and enhance the need to go to the bathroom.
Finally, athletes should avoid drinks that are high and protein during exercise. You should preserve these types of drinks for when the activity is done. Packing your water bottle with protein powder is not the secret to peak performed and too much protein can actually slow absorption and hamper hydration.
Now there is research that shows that sports drinks containing about 5 grams of protein per 12 ounces or about a cup and a half can help with rehydration and also reduce muscle damage. However, 5 grams is much less compared to the amount of protein in some typical protein drinks.
So don't forget, practice with your drinks. What works for one person does not automatically mean it works for the next person. Different sports demand different hydration needs and different guts respond differently. So test it out before choosing the drink for you.