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Water or sports drinks? Making the best choice at the right time 

You can find sports drinks filling up the racks at convenience stores and supermarkets. You might ask yourself, do I absolutely need them or are they just a consumer trap? Time to clear things up when it comes to when you should use sports drinks!

Who are sports drinks meant for and why?

The goal of a drink specially designed for athletes is to compensate for water, energy and electrolyte losses.  How? First off with its sugar content. Yes, that’s right. Simple sugar in a liquid form, the very same one we often point our finger at. However, in the case of intense and prolonged physical activity, like a long run, your body needs fuel that is readily available.  Sugar then becomes our best friend.

 Mineral salts (sodium and potassium) are also added to sports drinks, which are essential to rehydrate and make up losses from sweating.

Is it absolutely necessary?

This is where it’s easy to make mistakes: if you drink this kind of drink when you don’t need to, you're feeding your body the equivalent of a sweet and salty drink which is not ideal. Here are the conditions to determine if a sports drink is necessary or not.

  1. The duration of the activity

A minimum of one hour (60 minutes) of movement is needed for a speciality drink to be truly necessary. At that point, our energy reserves will begin to run out and the sugars you ingest will allow you to continue to perform adequately, whether you're a sportsperson or an athlete.

  1. The intensity of the sport

A yoga session at a controlled temperature could go over well with just water even if it lasts an hour and a half.  However, when you go running outside and doing high intensity activity, a sports drink becomes a great idea. Here is when our heart rate and how tired you feel will be the best indicators.

  1. The ambient temperature

In particularly hot and humid weather, mineral salt losses increase rapidly. A sports drink may be necessary in case of heavy sweating, even if the above conditions are not met.

Useful tips

There is a wide variety of beverages on the market and it's important to make sure the content meets our needs. We should therefore aim for 6 to 8g of carbohydrates, 50 to 70 mg of sodium and 7.5 to 20 mg of potassium per 100ml. And of course, we can easily make our own recipe!

Leave it on the shelf

Avoid low-calorie drinks, which contain artificial sweeteners, protein drinks, which are difficult to digest when moving and are more suitable for after training, and energy drinks, which contain stimulants, should also be avoided.

Homemade Sports Drink

Our homemade sports drink is quick and easy to prepare for a fraction of the price of an equivalent bought in store.

Annie is a nutritionist, pharmacist and founder of ScienceFourchette.com. Energetic and creative, she has a unique approach to enrich your knowledge of nutrition and (really!!) simplify your diet.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Refrigeration time: 1 hour

Yield (Number of portions): About 4 cups (1L)

Ingredients:

50g (1/4 cup) of (organic or non-organic) sugar

1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) of salt

60 ml (1/4 cup) of hot water

60 ml (1/4 cup) of 100% pure orange juice, (mixed with orange juice to naturally obtain enough potassium)

30 ml (2 tablespoons) of lemon juice

840 ml (3 1/2 cups) cold water

In a large bowl, dilute the sugar and the salt with the hot water. Mix well.

Add the orange juice, lemon juice and cold water. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Lasts 2 to 3 days in the fridge. An amount equivalent to 100 ml provides 6 g of carbohydrates and 55 mg of sodium. Orange juice is naturally rich in potassium and easily meets the recommended amount. Keeping the orange juice and mixing it with another drink is recommended if you want to vary the flavours.