DateApril 21, 2014
commentNo comment by Author, Razvan Stancea
Which Hydrates Better – Sports Drinks or Water?

A common theme in advertising is claiming that one product is better than another. You’ve probably seen commercials for sports drinks that claim to be packed full of electrolytes, giving you the added boost you wouldn’t normally get from plain water. The ads’ message seems to be unchanging throughout the years, which could mean that athletes don’t believe it. However, it is true – for the following reasons:

  • Osmolality. Or, the concentration of dissolved particles in a liquid. Fluids are absorbed by your gut and will travel through your bloodstream more quickly when their osmolality matches your bodily fluids. Since sports drinks contain dissolved minerals like sodium, carbohydrates, etc., they move through your bloodstream much faster than water does.

  • Nutrients regulate and balance you. Sodium and other nutrients regulate fluid balance in your body – this means that they help decide how much fluid is allowed in your muscle fibers and other cells, how much stays in your blood, and so on. Since sports drinks already have these nutrients, they work better than water does at maintaining fluid balance, which many athletes do not consider.

  • Sodium. Lastly, sports drinks contain sodium, which makes us more thirsty. Thus, athletes will drink more of the sports drink vs. plain water. That being said, not all sports drinks are created equal – some have a higher sodium content than others and are obviously preferable, since they are absorbed faster and maintain fluid balance in the blood and muscles better than drinks with a lower sodium content. The best choice is a sports drink with at least 15 mg of sodium per oz.

Studies Show Protein Works

Recent research has suggested that if your sports drinks has a bit of protein in it, it may also hydrate better. People often overlook protein has an important nutrient in their diet. It affects osmolality, just like minerals and carbs. Therefore, by adding protein to a sports drink, it increases the absorption rate.

A recent study by exercise physiologists at San Antonio Catholic University in Murcia, Spain was published in the Spanish Journal of Nuclear Medicine, and had twenty-four professional cyclists participate. The cyclists drank two different sports drinks either at rest or during a workout. Drink A was a regular sports drink with 15 grams of carbohydrates/100 ml. Drink B had 10 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml with added proteins.

After the athletes exercised for 60 minutes, researchers found a significantly greater amount of Drink B (with the added proteins), had been absorbed vs. Drink A. This generally means that a carb-protein sports drink could possibly hydrate better than a regular sports drink.

Adding protein to a sports drink also appears to aid in fluid retention. If a beverage is too diluted, it will generally pass too quickly through the bloodstream to the bladder so it doesn’t “water down” blood and bodily fluids.

With new studies showing that the right amount of protein in sports drinks, combined with just the right amount of carbs and electrolytes, it’s clear that fluid retention is given an extra boost, and athletes are able to hydrate better while exercising.

Conclusion: Sports Drinks Hydrate Best

The advantages of sports drinks over water go beyond hydration. The calories in sports drinks increase endurance, reduce muscle damage caused by exercise, promote quicker recovery times, and limit the immune system suppression that occasionally follow difficult exercises. The makers of Leolyte understand the science that goes into sports drink creation, and why it’s necessary to pack our bodies with key electrolytes, especially when we’re dehydrated and/or ill. Water is a fantastic liquid – we’re made of it after all, and it’s the most important fluid we can put in our bodies. But during exercise, sports drinks are clearly the drink of choice. So, next time you’re sweating hard after a big workout session or hardcore game, reach for a refreshing Leolyte – save the water for another time.

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