Something in particular that I enjoy after a hard workout session is the sweat dripping down from my body to the floor. The pool of sweat that gathers on the ground is a testament to how much I have worked out, it is as though all the fats from my body had disintegrated into those droplets and I am expunged of all the nasty things that derail my health. Exercise does work in similar ways like that, but those little droplets that trickle down our spine and temples are mostly made up of water. Why we sweat is important since it is our body’s way of helping us to cool down and regulate our body temperature since our body heats up as we exercise.

In general, our body is made up of around 50 to 65% of water and it is necessary to replenish that loss of water when we drip with sweat. For most of us, we turn to regular H2O but there are those days when we crave for an ice cold bottle of sports drink from the refrigerated section in the mini-mart. Even if you have never once uncovered the insides of those bottles of coloured drinks, I am sure you would have encountered the popular sports drinks like 100 Plus and Gatorade. For the longest time, we have seen sportsmen downing these colourful beverages in a matter of seconds post-race or even in between stoppages at basketball games. Do they really help us hydrate better than normal tap water and improve our performance?


What Are Sports Drinks Made Of?

Of course, it goes without saying that water is what makes up the main ingredient in sports drinks, but it includes other substances as well that are supposed to improve one’s performance. For one, these sports drinks often contain carbs which are likely to take the form of sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose. As a general guideline, most sports drink consist of about 6 to 8% of carbohydrates and that would be about 28 grams of carbohydrates in each 500ml bottle. Next, sports drinks also tend to contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which are minerals that have an electric charge, that our body needs to function properly.


Can Sports Drinks Improve Your Performance?

A study was done on the effects of sports drinks across different ranges of exercise (short-duration exercise, intermittent exercise and prolonged continuous exercise). What they discovered was that athletes who drank sports drinks while they performed short duration exercise between 30 and 60 minutes had minimal change in their performance levels. However, for test subjects that engaged in intermittent exercise (exercise that spans over 1.5 hours to 4 hours) and those in the prolonged continuous exercise category, they discovered spikes in their performance levels when these beverages are consumed. This is all down to the carbohydrates in sports drinks that provide energy. When we put ourselves through prolonged and continuous exercise, our body depletes its carbohydrates stores and these carbs in sports drinks help us maintain our energy stores without dipping into its reserves.


Can Sports Drinks Replace Our H2O?

Realistically, nothing beats the simplicity of water — it clearly does not have any calories, carbohydrates nor nutrients and at times that is what our body needs. For the average person who does not participate in regular exercise, a sports drink may be deemed unnecessary and could actually be counterproductive for your health. There are certain occasions in which a bottle of sports drink would benefit you — when you spend long intense sessions at the gym or are going for a marathon, sports drinks would certainly be a viable alternative to normal H2O. But if you are only doing light training at the gym that wouldn’t take more than an hour, sports drinks actually affect your body.

For those who are looking to achieve weight loss, sports drinks might actually pull you away from your desired goal. This is because weight loss happens when the amount of calories you burn is much more than what you consume and when you down these sports drinks on the regular, you are loading unnecessary calories into your body and that would set you further back.


How Then Can We Stay Hydrated Without Sports Drinks?

What we found is that there is no difference in the hydrating ability of any beverage we drink after our exercise. Be it, water, coffee, sports drinks and even carbonated beverages like cola, they all work the same in hydrating us. It is shocking but it is what it is!

But that does not mean you should opt for those unhealthy beverages despite our previous statement — there are still other lingering side effects that would throw you off balance mid-exercise. For example, the excess carbonation in cola would cause you to feel bloated in your tummy and make exercise twice as difficult.

The reason why we enjoy sports drinks so much is more or less due to how tastier they are as compared to the water we obtain from our taps. To add a little whimsy to your water, how about adding a squeeze of lemon or infusing it with fruits to give it that little bit of flavour. Not only would you get your hydration in order, but you might also just completely drop sports drinks from your diet.