Sports drinks are not just consumed by athletes but the general population may drink them because they taste nice or because they need additional energy, but they could contain excess calories that will be burnt off by the athletes and turned to fat on the sedentary person. Although these drinks are healthy during exercise, they are not designed to be a recreational soft drink and people are confused by the purpose of sports drinks. It is also not a necessity fr athletes as gels or solid food can replace many sports drinks.
Sports drinks come in many forms and the main function is to replace lost electrolytes from exercise.
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There are many sports drinks on the market with are many flavors. From plain drinks to berry flavored sports drinks, there is a flavor for every person. The sports drink market has grown as there is a need to for people to perform at their peak. Gatorade and Powerade are probably the more popular sports drinks.
Proper rehydration is a priority and there are three main types of sports drinks. Isotonic sports drinks contain similar concentrations of salt and sugar as in the human body, while hypertonic sports drinks contain a higher concentration of salt and sugar and hypotonic drinks contain a lower concentration of salt and sugar. Depending on the goal, training level and hydration status of the athlete, the drink type should vary, but in general sports drinks are moderately isotonic. There are between 13 and 19 grams of sugar per 250ml serving.
Long distance athletes cannot participate in endurance events and expect to refuel with water. During intense exercise water and electrolytes from the body after sweating and drinking water will only rehydrate, but not add any vitamins, electrolytes or minerals to the working body.
Sports drinks have been created to fuel runners, but there are many alternatives such as energy gels, eating nuts and bananas and energy bars. Depending on the nature and length of the event, the fuel will be chosen accordingly. Some endurance athletes feel more nourished if they physically chew something like a chocolate energy bar or a fruit that is high in sugar, while other athletes find this to be time consuming and nauseating. It is a personal preference of the athlete what they will consume to maintain energy levels and replace lost nutrients.
One of the more popular alternatives to sports drinks right now is coconut water which contains a much better (and natural) set of ingredients than artificial sports drinks. In fact, one of the major benefits of coconut water is that it contains more potassium than bananas (potassium is a key ingredient to help prevent dehydration for long endurance type of exercise).
Another drink that has a lot of scientific backing to it is simple old chocolate milk. The protein to carb ratio in low fat chocolate milk makes it superior to drinks like Gatorade as a recovery drink after sports. Milk tends to sit heavy on the stomach chocolate milk is not ideal to drink in the middle of a sport, however, but rather as a post recovery drink (or at least a 20-30 minute break in between sessions).
It is important to read the labels of any drinks or supplements to see which ingredients and additives these drinks contain. Many athletes have been put off sports drinks because they have high sugar content. Many ordinary people drink sports drinks instead of water, but it is a high calorie replacement and will result in weight gain if it is not burnt off.