Do Sports Drinks Really Work?

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It’s no secret that the sports drink industry has been booming big time over the last decade or so. It’s become a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide, with numerous companies clamoring to foist their products upon athletes and health-conscious individuals. But as with any big trend, many people are skeptical. They may wonder what exactly is wrong with plain old water, and why they should be spending money on products that are clearly overhyped and unproven. So, what’s the real story with sports drinks? Should you drink them, or is it better to stick with water?

For moderate exercise, there’s nothing better than water. Water is absorbed by the body more easily than other types of fluid, and it’s generally all you need to boost your energy and keep your body going strong through a typical exercise session. When you plan to exercise, drink a full glass of water an hour ahead of time, keep sipping water throughout your exercise session, and fully hydrate afterwards.

Here’s where sports drinks come in: They actually can be useful when you need a burst of energy or are going to have a particularly strenuous workout session. This is because many sports drinks contain easy-to-digest carbohydrates that, while not necessarily great for you at other times, are just what your muscles need to go strong during an exercise session. They also contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium, which help the body absorb water more efficiently during long sessions of physical activity.

So yes, there are uses for sports drinks. Just keep these things in mind:

1. Avoid sports drinks that are high in sugar. Stick with the simpler varieties with fewer ingredients. A good sports drink should have very few calories.

2. Stay away from carbonated drinks. They’ll just make you feel bloated, which will slow down performance.

3. Consider making your own sport drink at home by mixing a light, natural fruit juice with a dash of salt and some water for dilution.

4. Save your sport drinks for immediately before and during your exercise session. In the lead-up to physical activity, stick with water.

5. Don’t overdo it. Drinking too much of a sports drink during exercise can negate some of the calories you burn off with physical activity.

6. Don’t use sports drinks during non-exercise times. Some of them may taste good, but when you’re not going to be exercising, sports drinks amount to empty calories.

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