Should You Drink Sports Drinks Instead of Water?

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If you ever watch sports, you have probably seen athletes sipping on brightly colored beverages before, during or after a competition.

These sports drinks are a big part of athletics and big business around the globe.

Many people believe that these drinks are the magic elixir to improve exercise performance, even if you are not an athlete.

However, others will tell you that this is just marketing and you should stick with water.

Water vs Sports Drinks
Sports Drinks

Water makes up the majority of your body weight and is critical for your body’s proper functioning (1).

In addition to losing water through urine, sweat and feces, your body is continually losing water through your skin and the air you exhale (2).

To replace these losses and promote good health and exercise performance, it’s often recommended to drink fluids regularly throughout the day (3, 4).

Although needs can vary, the recommended daily fluid intake is 91 ounces (2.7 liters) for adult women and 125 ounces (3.7 liters) for adult men (5).

The Main Ingredients in Sports Drinks

Water is the main ingredient in sports drinks, but they also contain other substances, including carbs and electrolytes, which are supposed to improve performance.

The carbs in these drinks are often in the form of sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose, but they may also be found in other forms.

Typically, sports drinks are 6–8% carbohydrates. A 6% solution contains about 14 grams of carbs per 8 fluid ounces (240 ml) (6).

However, some sports drinks are low- or zero-carb in an effort to appeal to those who want water and electrolytes without extra calories.

Electrolytes, or minerals that have an electrical charge, are essential for your body’s normal operation (7).

The main electrolytes found in sports drinks are sodium and potassium (8).

Popular brands of sports drinks include Gatorade®, Powerade® and All Sport®, among others.

Although there are several different brands available, there is likely not a large difference in the effectiveness of the major sports drinks on the market (6).

While much research has been conducted on sports drinks, some people have questioned the validity of these studies.

Specifically, some have raised concerns about the relationship between the large companies that make sports drinks and the scientists performing the studies (9).

SUMMARY Sports drinks contain water and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Most also contain carbs. Several brands of sports drinks are available, but there are probably not major differences in their effects on the body.

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