Many athletes swear by the added value of sports drinks, to supplement water intake during training. These liquid brews fuel physical effort and help maintain blood sugar and glycogen stores during exercise, and can provide precious calories and key nutrients before and after an intense workout. There are more than a few choices of sports drinks on the market, all trying to grab your attention and their place on your fitness grocery list. Here are the essential features you should look for in order to ensure that the sports drinks you buy are useful, nutritious and adapted to your endurance needs :
- The beverage in question should provide at least ½ litre (500 millilitres or 2 cups) of water for the suggested serving size to satisfy your thirst and ensure optimal hydration.
- If you are expecting your drink to provide an energy boost, it should contain carbohydrates in concentrations of 4 to 8%, which corresponds to about 20 to 40 grams of carbs per half-liter (500 millilitres or 2 cups) of brew. You can also use gels, chews, energy bars or tablets to get your carbs. Look for different kinds of carbohydrates, each with a specific speed of absorption and ease of digestion; there are simple sugars (the –ose family: glucose, fructose, dextrose…) or complex ones (maltodextrins or starches).
- The ideal product would also include electrolytes in sufficient quantities to allow you to take in 100 to 400 milligrams each of sodium and potassium in the offered format.
- Certain versions have caffeine (or guarana, maca, etc.) for increased alertness and performance, although its stimulating effects can cause a rise in blood pressure, an increase in heartbeat and some nervousness; be aware that individual tolerance may vary.
- A few kinds of sports drinks have glutamine, branched chain and other amino acids (they are the building blocks of protein) to nourish your muscles that undergo micro-tears during physical activity, this can be of added value when training lasts more than 2 hours.
Give sports drinks a chance, they may be the secret to assisting you in performance, fighting fatigue and preventing the infamous bonk! Once thirst and hunger set in, it is already too late… Better off planning ahead! Have fun training and cheers to your health!!!