A Quick Guide To Sports Drinks

What's an energy drink... or an electrolyte... or a recovery drink? Here's a 30-second guide


Posted: 7 November 2006

Here's a quick guide to the different types of sports drink

  • Energy drinks with electrolytes: the most common, all-round energy drinks. Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) replace the salts lost in sweat and help to reduce cramping, among other things. Drinks with a high proportion of 'complex carbohydrates', eg maltodextrin, will be easier to digest and provide a steadier release of energy than drinks made mostly with simple sugars, eg sucrose, glucose or fructose.
  • Energy drinks without electrolytes: a few energy drinks (eg SiS PSP22) have no added electrolytes, and can often be mixed at high concentrations while remaining digestible. These are particularly useful in cooler weather when you may need energy without high levels of fluid.
  • Energy drinks with a little protein: (eg High5 4:1) These products are still relatively rare but some research suggests that a little protein in a carbohydrate drink can improve performance on the run.
  • Recovery drinks Post-run drinks usually contain around 70% carbohydrate and 30% protein and are designed for the hour after a hard run when your body can most effectively rebuild its muscles in anticipation of your next training session.

One final term you'll come across often: 'isotonic'. In very simple terms this means a drink that's at a relatively easily digested concentration when mixed as the manufacturer recommends. You can usually dilute a drink to taste, though.


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