When Are Sports Drinks Necessary?
Most of us know how important it is to stay hydrated when exercising, but what we may not fully understand is when exactly sports drinks are necessary. Maybe you’ve seen all the pros out there drinking their fancy-coloured sports drinks, or maybe you’ve even seen MAMILs drinking them and thinking ‘what on earth can a MAMIL know that I don’t?!’ Well, have no fear, all will be explained and then you can decide for yourself whether you think you’re missing out on these flashy drinks or not.
If we take it down to the most basic level, it all depends on the level of intensity and duration of exercise.
When you sweat, you lose water – hence why you need to rehydrate by drinking plenty of that magic fluid that is H20. However, not only do we lose water from our body, we also lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are the particles that make your sweat taste salty. Funnily enough, those salty-tasting liquids leaving your body are actually pretty essential in helping you perform your day to day functions.
Importantly for athletes, they help with the contraction and relaxation of muscles, and depletion in electrolyte levels can lead to muscle cramps alongside a whole host of other side effects. In other words, as an athlete you can’t afford to let your electrolyte levels drop too low.
When exercising, your body’s main fuel basically comes from carbohydrate and fat stores. If you’re exercising for a short amount of time, the carbohydrate stores built up from your food intake beforehand should keep you going, but the longer you exercise, the more your energy stores are depleted, and you can experience both physical and mental fatigue. Not ideal.
‘That’s all very interesting and all that, but what’s all this got to do with sports drinks?’
We hear you, and it’s a good question!
The answer is that sports drinks contain both electrolytes and carbohydrates. Staminade for instance contains Magnesium – one of the four main electrolyte minerals. Magnesium plays a fundamental role in skeletal strength, muscle contraction and energy production, and helps to sustain the high Oxygen consumption required when exercising. Staminade also contains two sugars (carbohydrates) that when mixed, provide both quick release and slow release energy. Bingo.
So, if you’re training for less than an hour, you may well sweat buckets, but you may not need an electrolyte drink. Rehydration through good old water could do the job. However, that’s reliant on the fact that you have fueled up properly before your exercise. If you haven’t, your glycogen levels will unlikely need replacing. Whilst more intense exercise burns glycogen more quickly, the general rule of thumb is after 60-90 minutes of exercise, grab yourself one of those neon-looking sports drinks! Drink the green stuff, look the part, play the part.
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