If you compete in endurance events and suffer running cramps, leg cramps or any type of muscle cramps, then it’s no secret that sports drinks have an important role in replacing electrolytes, carbohydrates and fluid.
However, with the sports drink market so competitive and with many new ‘players’ it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other . . . except by the colours I suppose . . . blue for a hot day, red when you’re a little chilled, yellow if you’re feeling, well, mellow.
Or you cold read on and find out the real differences between them.
The first place to start is to identify which category the particular drink falls into and then evaluate it against what you need to prevent cramps . . . and this will depend on the type of event you are competing in or training for.
Most of them contain plenty of potassium and sodium however they tend to come up short on calcium and magnesium, natural sugars and many of the vitamins involved in energy production – particularly the B group vitamins, vitamin D and the antioxidant vitamins A, C & E.
The reason for this is that the more nutrients you put into a drink, the more it costs and the less sweet it begins to taste.
Here’s some simple information so you can tell the difference between sports drinks and determine their benefits in terms of providing enough energy or hydration to prevent cramps.
Provide the body with water, energy and electrolytes in a rapidly absorbable form. During exercise, energy and electrolytes are lost along with water and isotonic drinks are designed to replace this as rapidly as possible. Some isotonic drinks with higher levels of glucose may be absorbed just as rapidly and help replace lost energy.
Energy drinks are more about supplying energy to keep the muscles working over a long period of time. Their advantage over isotonic drinks is that they can supply energy at a higher rate. The disadvantage is that the higher carbohydrate concentration may slow down the absorption of water.
They are more suited for circumstances where the need for higher fluid intakes isn’t as critical. For example, an endurance event in a more temperate climate would be a good time to use an energy drink.
Recovery drinks supply the muscles with water, carbohydrate and protein. Good examples of these drinks will contain electrolyte minerals, vitamins, amino acids and additional nutrients for better recovery. In addition to the drink, you should maintain a high water intake.
Our final thoughts are to look around to find a sports drink that contains as many nutrients and natural sugars (saccharides) as possible.
If you suffer cramps regularly, then the addition of a multi-nutrient sports drink will b a definite advantage. Just remember, the higher the glucose content, the more fluid you should drink.
What I do for 3 hour plus events is alternate a bottle of sports drink (say 500ml) with a bottle of water every hour. However we all have different needs when it comes to hydration and that is a whole new topic I’ll take on in another article.