Whenever undertaking exercise it is vitally important that the athlete remains properly hydrated. The intake of sufficient fluid is important for performance and safety. If you lack hydration, your performance will suffer and your stamina will be reduced. However, it is also important that the right fluids are consumed.

Why should I consider a sports drink?

It is recommended that if a physical workout is going to last for more than 90 minutes then the athlete should consider a specifically designed sports drink in order to maintain hydration. It is thought that after 90 minutes of a workout, that the body is losing electrolytes and other nutrients through perspiration. In order to maintain performance and aid recovery, these should be replaced.

What types of sports drink are there?

There are many different types and brand of sports drinks. The most popular brands include Powerade, Gatorade, Cytomax, Accelerade and Lucozade. Typically these sport drinks contain carbohydrate, sodium and potassium. As well as providing energy, the carbohydrate solution is absorbed quicker than just normal water. Sports drinks can be broken down into several categories. Isotonic sports drinks such as Lucozade Sport or Gatorade contain a 6 – 8% carbohydrate solution. Lucozade Sport Hydo-active however is a Hydrotonic drink which is a much weaker 1 – 3% solution. Whilst this will provide less energy it will be absorbed faster than an Isotonic drink. At the other end of the scale are hypertonic drinks which are 10% solutions and are absorbed slowly making them largely unsuitable for exercise.

How much should I drinking?

This is difficult to answer as it depends on the individual. A common approach is to weigh yourself before training, do a 60 minute workout without fluid intake and then weigh yourself again after towelling off sweat. The difference in weight will roughly indicate how much water was lost. You can then match your level of hydration to suit.

When should I be drinking my sports drink?

Your body cannot absorb carbohydrate and electrolytes well when it is dehydrated, so startin your workout without already being hydrated is not recommended. Research suggests ensuring that your body is well hydrated by drinking water steadily 2 – 3 hours before the workout starts. You can then consume energy drinks during exercise knowing that they will be effective. It is also important to continue to rehydrate after exercise. Some athletes will use a protein based energy drink to rehydrate in order to promote muscle recovery.

So, if you're into exercise and are looking to perform better, for longer with a good recovery as well it may well be worth investigating sports drinks to see whether they are suitable for you and your exercise regime and diet.