Why Sports Drinks Are Important for Athletes
It’s not uncommon to see athletes sipping on neon-coloured drinks these days. And maybe you’re wondering ‘what if we all tried these bright-looking beverages, would we too would be able to give a Bolt-esque performance, or challenge Phelps’ 100m freestyle time, or maybe break the 2-hour mark for a marathon?’ Maybe, but unlikely…
Whilst these sports drinks won’t quite give you superhuman powers, the benefits to them are three-fold, and that’s why many currently argue they are better than simply taking on plain water when it comes to long-duration sports training (over 60/90 minutes). Well, what are these benefits? Powdered sports drinks (such as Staminade) contain water, electrolytes and carbohydrates (hence why they’re often referred to as electrolyte drinks), and each of these components are important for different aspects when it comes to exercise. We take a look at why sports drinks are important for athletes.
Shock. This one probably comes as no surprise, but as we exercise we lose water through sweat, and if this isn’t replaced to maintain the body’s water level, well you could be in some trouble. Dehydration of just 1-2% of your bodyweight can have significant effects on the body and mind, and in countries like Australia, dehydration while exercising is all too easy to come by unless you take the necessary steps to avoid it.
Yes, before you ask, plain, simple, good old tap water is just as good at rehydrating you as a powdered sports drink would be. But hold your horses…wait to see what else these luminous drinks contain.
As you lose water through sweat, you also lose electrolytes. These are the particles that make your sweat taste salty, and they’re actually pretty essential in helping your body perform its normal 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.
Powdered sports drinks contain electrolytes. Staminade for instance contains Magnesium – one of the four main electrolyte minerals. Taking on a sports drink during prolonged periods of exercise therefore, can help you to counter any loss of electrolytes through sweat.
The dreaded C-word. No, it’s not at all, and if you’re training for prolonged periods then carbohydrates are certainly going to be your friend. As you exercise, your body uses carbs stored in your muscles (known as glycogen) for energy; it’s like the fuel that goes into your car. The more you exercise the more fuel you burn. If your petrol tank runs empty you’ll eventually splutter to a halt. We don’t want that.
Sports drinks therefore, provide your body with an injection of carbohydrates (fuel), to help top up these stores and perhaps give you the energy you need to keep on going.
Well then, now you know why these funky looking drinks claim to be better than trusty tap water for long-duration training. They help to rehydrate you, replenish your electrolyte levels, and give you some much-needed energy boosts while you’re out there on the slog. So that’s why sports drinks are important for athletes. Give it a go, spice things up a bit, live a little?
You might also be interested…
Energy and sports drinks sound similar, but they are not the same. An explanation of energy and sports drinks, and which to choose for you.
When should you reach for a sports drink and when is water good enough to hydrate for both sports and at other times?