What do sports drinks do to your body?

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If you have ever watched sports, you have likely witnessed athletes sipping vividly colored beverages before, during, and after competitions.

These sports beverages are an integral aspect of athletics and a global industry.



Even if you are not an athlete, many individuals feel that these beverages are the golden potion for improving exercise performance.

Others would argue that this is simply marketing and that you should stay with water.

Water vs Sports Drinks

Water comprises the majority of your body weight and is essential to the correct functioning of your body (1Trusted Source).

In addition to losing water through urine, perspiration, and feces, your body regularly loses water through skin evaporation and exhaled air (2Trusted Source).

To replenish these losses and support excellent health and exercise performance, it is generally advised to consume fluids throughout the day (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

The recommended daily fluid consumption for adult women is 91 ounces (2.7 liters) while for adult men it is 125 ounces (3.7 liters) (5).

The Primary Components of Sports Beverages

In addition to water, sports drinks contain other components, such as carbohydrates and electrolytes, that are intended to enhance performance.

These drinks typically contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose, but they may also contain carbohydrates in other forms.

Most sports drinks include 6 to 8 percent carbs. A 6% solution provides approximately 14 grams of carbohydrates per 8 fluid ounces (240 milliliters) (6Trusted Source).

To appeal to people who desire water and electrolytes without extra calories, however, several sports drinks are low- or zero-carb.

Electrolytes, or minerals with an electrical charge, are important for the correct functioning of your body (7).

Sodium and potassium are the predominant electrolytes in sports beverages (8Trusted Source).

Among the most popular sports drink brands are Gatorade®, Powerade®, and All Sport®.

Although there are numerous brands available, it is unlikely that there is a significant difference between the effectiveness of the leading sports drinks on the market (6Trusted Source).

While numerous studies have been undertaken on sports drinks, the validity of these studies has been questioned by some.

Especially, concerns have been raised about the relationship between the main sports drink manufacturers and the experts conducting the studies (9Trusted Source).

Sports Drinks Can Benefit Athletes

Water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes are the primary components of sports beverages. Each is essential for distinct elements of exercise performance.

Sweat causes the loss of water and electrolytes, which must be replaced, especially during prolonged exercise (10Trusted Source).

Your muscles and liver store a substance called glycogen, which is used as fuel during activity (11Trusted Source).

Eating carbohydrates before or during exercise can reduce the rate at which your body depletes its own glycogen resources (10Trusted Source).

These three essential elements are used in sports drinks with the intention of enhancing exercise performance or recuperation (8Trusted Source).

Many studies have explored the impact of sports drinks on exercise performance, with the majority of these studies including athletes.

Short-Duration Workout
It is unclear whether sports drinks are advantageous for short-duration exercise.

A report reviewed nine research of 30–60 minutes of vigorous cycling or running (6Trusted Source).

Six of the research demonstrated that sports drinks improve physical performance. Nonetheless, each subject was a trained athlete engaging in vigorous activity.

Compared to a placebo, a sports drink increased the performance of trained cyclists by around 2% during one hour of vigorous cycling (12Trusted Source).

Despite these findings, there is little data to support the benefits of sports drinks for short-duration activities like leaping, sprinting, and agility training (13Trusted Source).

Similarly, weight training has not been shown to offer clear benefits (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

Team Sports and Interval Training

In team sports like soccer, basketball, and football, the consumption of sports beverages is widespread.

These sports include alternating bouts of intensive activity and rest.

Some study indicates that consuming sports drinks containing carbohydrates can reduce fatigue and enhance performance in sports such as soccer and rugby (13Trusted Source).

Several studies have explored cycling for 1.5–4 hours with intermittent rest periods.

A study discovered that nine out of twelve studies using this type of activity demonstrated improved performance when sports drinks were ingested vs a placebo (6Trusted Source).

Protracted Constant Exercise
Continuous activity, unlike intermittent exercise, is performed without rest periods.

Many studies have explored the impact of carbohydrate-containing beverages, such as sports drinks, during 1–4 hours or longer of continuous exercises, such as running and cycling.

The bulk of this research indicates that consuming these beverages improves performance (6Trusted Source).

Similarly, participants in team sports, such as soccer, that most closely resemble lengthy continuous exertion are more likely to benefit from sports beverages (13Trusted Source).

These benefits may be attributable to the fact that sports drinks give carbohydrates for energy when your body’s stores are low and prevent dehydration (10Trusted Source).

How Many Carbohydrates?

In general, the number of carbohydrates that may be advantageous increases as activity time increases.

Studies indicate that little amounts of carbohydrates (less than 30 grams per hour) may boost performance in 30-to-75-minute activities (10Trusted Source).

In sessions lasting 1–2 hours, it is recommended to ingest up to 30 grams per hour of carbohydrates or around 16 fluid ounces of a sports drink with 6% carbs.

Sessions lasting 2–3 hours may benefit from consuming up to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour (10Trusted Source).

Yet, these suggestions are for nonstop high-effort activities. Certain intermittent activities, such as weight training, are exempt from the same rules.

They are unnecessary for most individuals.

There are several elements to consider when determining whether or not sports drinks are beneficial.

Type and Intensity of Physical Effort

Consider your exercise routine, duration, and intensity before anything else.

While sports drinks can be beneficial for athletes who engage in long or strenuous workouts, they are largely unnecessary for the majority of gym-goers.

If you engage in light-to-moderate exercise for less than one hour, such as walking or jogging, you probably do not need to consume sports drinks.

Similarly, if you simply engage in weight training, you likely do not require sports drinks, even if you spend over an hour at the gym.

The majority of your time may be spent resting between sets, and weight training does not deplete glycogen stores as effectively as endurance activity (14Trusted Source).

If you elect to utilize a sports drink, you should likely eat lesser amounts for activities lasting less than an hour and no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates for activities lasting 1–2 hours (10Trusted Source).


What do sports drinks do to your body?

If you have ever watched sports, you have likely witnessed athletes sipping vividly colored beverages before, during, and after competitions.


1. Hypotonic
2. Isotonic
3. Hypertonic

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