Today there are so many different brands of sports beverages – Gatorade, PowerAde, Vitamin Water, and even Clif Quench by Clif Bar. Additionally, there are so many versions of each brand; take Gatorade for example, which offers G2-low calorie, G Series Fit, and G Natural. Wow, have times changed! I see people who workout for 20 minutes and drink Gatorade. On the other hand I see people running on the treadmill for an hour and a half who just drink water or nothing at all. So, when should sports drinks be used?
What you put in, affects what you get out! This is true with most things in life, likewise with your sports drink. My passion for nutrition is matched by the jock quotient (JQ). My interest in food was driven by my desire to improve my athletic performance; first it was softball, now it’s running. I’m always looking for ways to maximize my JQ (Jock Quotient). No matter what your JQ, you should understand how nutritional intake affects you and find the best options for your personal fitness objectives. The higher the JQ, the more likely you are to need a sports drink during your workouts.
Sports drinks have added electrolytes, sodium, and potassium, which are important minerals used in the body during exercise, but lost through sweat. As the duration of exercise increases, sweating increases. Therefore, replacing potassium and sodium becomes progressively more important when exercising for an hour or longer. In a light to moderate workout, lasting less than 45 minutes, you really don’t lose enough electrolytes to require a sports drink. The body does not expend that much energy or fuel in a light to moderate exercise, so the extra calories from a sports drink are not warranted. If you are doing a high intensity 30 minute workout (i.e. sprints), consider a sports beverage. In a run lasting longer than 1 hour in duration, consumption of an 8 ounce sports beverage (after the first hour) has been shown to increase performance.
When it comes to the low calorie sports beverages, I do believe they have their place. For people watching their caloric intake this can be a beneficial, lower calorie option for a moderate hour long workout. The low calorie sport beverages are able to provide the needed electrolytes, sodium and potassium that need to be replaced due to electrolytes lost in sweat. However, once the duration threshold exceeds that hour marker, low calorie sports drinks become less effective in providing fuel for continued performance.
Personally I love the Yellow (Lemon-Lime) PowerAde. Yes, PowerAde not Gatorade; I do have a very specific preference. However I will drink Gatorade if I cannot find my yellow PowerAde. I drink 8-12 ounces of a sports beverage after a one hour workout. If running on the treadmill for an hour and a half, I would have at least 16 ounces of a sports beverage, sipping some during the run then finishing the rest once I am done.
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