You’ve seen people chug down sports drinks after a workout. Is it really necessary? By Estelle Low
Sports drinks contain added carbs and electrolytes to restore energy and electrolyte levels. Photo: warrengoldswain / 123rf.com
Even if you don’t regularly consume sports drinks, you’ve probably tasted one.
A recent study by Herbalife found sports drinks to be the most popular choice for sports nutrition in Singapore, ahead of supplements, energy bars and powdered products.
Compared to water, sports drinks have added carbs and electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium, to provide energy and replace the minerals that are lost through sweat. When your body is low on those minerals, you are likely to experience muscle cramps, nausea, fatigue and/or an inability to focus.
So while water is great for hydration, sports drinks offer an extra benefit of recharging you, as well as replenishing essential electrolytes. There are plenty of sports drinks in the market, from brands like H2O, 100plus, Pocari Sweat and Herbalife.
When should you take a sports drink?
According to Herbalife nutritionist Irene Cheng, a sports drink is essential if you’re exercising for more than 30 minutes, or if you’re doing high-intensity workouts in a shorter duration. Examples of high-intensity workouts are running, spinning and high-intensity interval training. You know it’s intense when you can barely talk during the exercise.
“As long as you’re sweating profusely, you should take a sports drink. That’s even more important if you exercise outdoors. In this hot and humid environment, you’ll lose electrolytes quickly,” says Irene.
And if you think sports drinks are meant for consumption post-workout, think again.
“By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already two per cent dehydrated. That causes your energy and performance to dip during a workout. To ensure optimal energy and hydration levels, fuel up with a carbohydrate-containing sports drink before and during a workout,” says Irene.
The same Herbalife study found that only 25 per cent of people consume sports drinks during a workout, while 64 per cent have it afterwards.
The key is to drink before you’re thirsty. Irene recommends having 100ml to 200ml of sports drink every 20 minutes during a high-intensity workout.
Before stocking up on drinks, know that not all products are made equal. Some contain higher sugar content than others, while some have artificial flavours and sweeteners, so read the labels carefully.