Should I Drink a Sports Drink During or After Training

It is common to hear and read from whomever that sports drinks are bad for athletes, or that they should be diluted with water. Sports drinks are Gatorade, Powerade, and whatever else there is. I am not talking about Energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster. Keep in mind we are in Arizona where it can generally be a little warmer than the norm. Here’s the answer.

Sports drinks are okay on occasion and in the right situations. As a general rule of thumb, sports drinks are beneficial for activities over 60 minutes in duration. BUT, consider the activity, or rather the intensity of the activity. Look at a sports drink as being necessary if your athlete legitimately needs to refuel. I like that word. When they’re working hard to where they are sweating, then I consider that a need to refuel—because they are losing their fluids and electrolytes through sweat. If they are not sweating—because they may be standing around learning something—they do not need to refuel. The same goes for adults. These sports drinks simply contain sugar that raises the insulin and stores as fat.

However, when appropriate, a sports drink has a real important role in sports nutrition. During high intensity training, research has shown the most benefit are derived from high concentrations of the sports drink—meaning do not dilute it. Consuming a sports drink during intense activities can help maintain adequate hydration as well as energy levels.

Sports drinks are a combination of water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, among others. They offer a variety of benefits:

• Provide the necessary fluids an athlete needs;

• Can help maintain stamina during training and competition ;

• Enhance fluid absorption in the small intestine due to the carbohydrate and sodium content;

• Can have a positive effect on performance; and

• Enhanced taste encouraging greater hydration

The preferred drink of choice is always water. I tend to drink watered-down sports drinks because I get tired of drinking water. I would assume kids prefer the taste of sports drinks too. With that said, it is so easy for sugar to make its way into our diets. To me, the solution is simple. Drink water always throughout the day, but during intense training, or activity, go ahead and hit up a sports drink. I still prefer it watered down, and don’t believe I’m neglecting anything by lowering the concentration. Again, eat a healthy diet throughout the day and you’re not going to collapse the first time you work up a sweat.

I know in Arizona we have to stay hydrated, and I know sometimes our athletes get tired of drinking water. And it makes sense that it’s better to ensure they’re staying hydrated by drinking a sports drink instead of drinking nothing at all. It just comes down to being proactive and making sure they are drinking water. There’s no other real answer. If you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated. We have to work harder in this state to make sure it doesn’t happen.

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