Hydration & Electrolyte Drinks

Fatigue Factors 

Depending on the length of your workout, training session or competition, performance and endurance are primarily limited by three factors: 

  • Loss of body fluids – according to a large body of research, losing more than 2% of your body weight as sweat can hamper performance
  • Drop in blood sugar levels – your brain uses a steady supply of blood glucose as a fuel source. During exercise you drain the glucose level in your blood, which can result in impaired concentration and reduced skill/accuracy
  • Depletion of muscle carbohydrate stores – as you train, muscles use stored carbohydrate (glycogen) as fuel.  Depending on the intensity and duration of your workout or game, your muscles become fatigued as energy stores are used up

 

Sports Drinks to the Rescue 

Mixtures of water and carbohydrates, sports drinks make an excellent fuelling and hydration choice. Years of research clearly shows that for exercise lasting anywhere from 60 minutes to several hours, drinking carbohydrate beverages significantly boosts endurance performance compared to drinking plain water. According to the same research you can expect an improvement in endurance of about 20% or more in sessions lasting longer than 90 minutes.

Most sports drinks offer a blend of carbohydrate sources such as glucose, fructose and maltodextrin. Some research suggests that sports drinks offering a combination of carbohydrates rather than just one sugar source improves the amount of carbohydrate that eventually gets to the muscles as fuel.  By offering your intestinal tract different sugars, that rate of carbohydrate absorption is improved as different sugars are absorbed by different routes.

Sports drinks also come with added electrolytes. The most important is sodium, as it is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat, helps maintain fluid balance in your body, encourages your drinking response and promotes the uptake of fluid in the intestine. 

 

What about Water? 

For many people water is the fluid of choice, it’s cheap and readily available. It is useful in non-endurance events of low intensity, where carbohydrate replacement is not the priority. It will replace your fluid losses but will not provide any energy. 

 

Top Tips 

  • Always take a full drink bottle to training and competitions
  • Cool drinks are more refreshing and palatable than warm ones
  • Choose a drink that best matches your needs - a sports drink formulated in NZ will be designed to suit your palate too
  • Practice your drinking routines during training
  • Immediately before exercise drink about 150 - 350ml, then continue taking small amounts of fluid (150 - 200ml) every 20 minutes
  • Start drinking as soon as possible following a training session, game or competition
  • Air travel, air conditioning and altitude will all increase your fluid requirements
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