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An introduction to sports drinks

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Sports drinks have grown in popularity in recent years, and they are now a multi-billion dollar industry. However, are they really necessary for the amateur sports person? Powerade, Lucozade and Gatorade have all been official sponsors of large, worldwide sporting events, but what are the benefits to drinking these?

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Advertising would suggest that sports drinks contain some magic potion, which will unleash the athlete from within. In reality, whether isotonic, hypertonic or hypotonic, they all contain four very basic ingredients – water and a combination of flavourings, carbohydrate and sodium.

For those not exercising, drinking a sports drink is simply loading extra calories and will do very little other than help them gain weight. However, even those actually exercising are probably not doing enough to warrant them drinking anything other than plain water. Furthermore, even those working out for more than an hour should think carefully before downing a sports drink. If they need extra energy for a football match, then it is perhaps fair enough, but for those working out to lose weight, drinking the extra calories and carbohydrate will simply counteract the calories being burnt.

When is a sports drink beneficial?

There are occasions when a sports drink can be considered beneficial. For those performing very intense exercise for longer than 60 minutes, the glycogen in a sports drink can benefit the muscles. Additionally, if a player has not found time to eat properly before a workout, an isotonic drink can be helpful to increase energy levels. During a game, hypertonic drinks should always be avoided. However, after a particularly long session, if energy reserves are heavily depleted, the high sugar content can help hasten recovery, if there is no opportunity for a proper meal.

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Drink something

Although a sports drink may or may not give someone the edge over those drinking just water, the most important thing to remember when exercising is to drink enough fluids in general. Dehydration can have a significant negative impact on performance.

So, whether it’s a sports drink or simply a bottle of plain old fashioned water, make sure there’s a bottle in all of your club’s football team kits (

To get the most out of your activity, whether it be team games or an afternoon in the gym, eat well, drink plenty of fluids and enjoy!