What’s In A Sports Drink For Runners?
Sports drinks basically contain a mixture of water, carbohydrates and electrolytes. The carbohydrates provide your body with fuel, and electrolytes replace the salts you lose in your sweat. These electrolytes help regulate muscle contraction and lots of other important processes in the body. The common electrolytes to look out for are;
Common Sports Drink Buzzwords
If you’ve ever looked at the label of a sports drink, you’ve probably noticed words like ‘isotonic’, ‘hypotonic’ and ‘hypertonic’ on there. While they sound fancy, their meanings are fairly simple;
• Provide carbohydrates to fuel you and keep you hydrated
• Have the same carbohydrate/electrolyte/water balance as your blood
• Typically contain 4-8g of carbohydrates in each 100ml of drink
• Are ideal for sports where both hydration and a lack of carbs (fuel) can limit performance (like long distance running)
• Maintain hydration but without much fuel
• Typically contain less than 4g of carbohydrates per 100ml of drink
• Provide better hydration due to the higher water content
• Don’t usually provide enough fuel for long workouts or runs
• Typically provide more carbohydrates
• Contain more carbs than is present in your blood, so they can be more difficult to absorb
• They are, therefore, more likely to cause tummy upsets
• Typically contain higher than 8g of carbohydrates per 100ml of liquid
• Need to be used alongside water when exercising to keep hydrated
Making Your Own Sports Drinks!
To make your own Isotonic Drink to keep you fuelled and hydrated, try;
• 50% fruit juice (i.e. from concentrate, not squash!) and 50% water, plus pinch of salt
To make your own Hypotonic Drink to keep you hydrated on a run, try;
• 75% water to 25% fruit juice, plus pinch of salt
How To Choose A Running Sports Drink
The ideal drink should; taste good, not cause stomach discomfort, and provide some carbs and electrolytes. Everyone is different, so you’d do best to experiment to find the best one for you. Or try the ones they give out on your target race to practice.
Look at the labels of lots of sports drinks and compare them by;
• Carbohydrate concentration
• Type of carbohydrates used; a mix is good
• Other ingredients like electrolytes, sweeteners, and vitamins
How Much Should I Drink On A Run?
Try weighing yourself before and after a shorter run (with no food, drink or loo trips). The weight you lose in grams is the water you should have drunk in millilitres. So 250g of weight lost means you should have drunk 250ml of water. Use this to estimate the amount of fluid you need on runs of different lengths. And remember you’ll sweat more when it’s hotter!