Runners have to go through a lot of strain and hard work in order to maintain their fitness and strength. This not only helps them to enhance their endurance, but also improve their performance as well. However, maintaining peak fitness also requires sportspersons to stay hydrated at all times so that they are able to give their best during performance. This propelled sports drinks to come into existence so that sportspersons are able to consume liquids that give them a little more than what plain water can do for them.

Sports drinks and their importance for sportspersons
Although most sports drinks manufacturers claim that their products can provide instant energy to enhance performance, sports drinks do not actually do that. They do not offer instant energy to sportspersons so that the users are able to perform better. What it really does is act as an alternate or supplement to water.

When a runner works and toils hard during training or on the field, they lose a lot of essential minerals from their bodies through the sweat that comes off their body. Water, although a very essential drink for every sportsperson, is not adequate in supplying all the lost minerals back to the body. On the other hand, these sports drinks are equipped with the necessary minerals and electrolytes that are lost during the exercises. The supplement of these minerals help to prevent the fatigue caused due to the hard work, and improves the performance as well as endurance of an athlete.

The quality and the types of food items as well as liquids consumed by a sportsperson are imperatively pivotal for the success of any athlete. There was a time in the past when water was the only available liquid that athletes around the world had available to them for replenishing their lost minerals and energy. However, with increasing competition and rising standards of the various sports played today, it has become imperative for sportspersons to look beyond plain water for their liquid supplements. This has led to the increase in the importance of sports drinks in the diet of every athlete.

Important components of Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are made of a number of important minerals and ingredients that are very critical to the maintenance of proper health and energy levels of a runner. However, the most important components among them are discussed below.

Carbohydrates and Water
Carbohydrates and water are not only the main ingredients found in sports drinks, but they are also the most important ones. These carbohydrates can be found in sports drinks in the form of different mixtures of glucose and fructose along with numerous glucose polymers. These mixtures of glucose vary from one sports drink to another, and this differentiation is what sets them apart from one another. These mixtures of carbohydrates are also used in varying combinations with flavors to improve energy levels, digestion, hydration and strength.

According to a number of medical studies, it has been found that unsweetened fruit juices and carbonated drinks usually contain excessively large quantities of sugar and carbohydrates that are often absorbed by the stomach. This causes unnecessary accumulation of glucose and sugar in the body, which later transforms into fat. On the other hand, sports drinks usually contain 4-8 percent of carbohydrate (i.e. 4-8 grams of carbohydrate per 100mL). This small quantity of carbohydrate is not absorbed by the stomach and is passed onto the small intestine, where it is absorbed easily for best results.

Apart from water, electrolytes tend to be the major component found in the perspiration or sweat that comes out of the body during periods of hard and strenuous physical activities. Sodium and Chlorine are the main components of electrolytes along with minute quantities of Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Calcium, Zinc and Copper among a few other minerals. Hence, substantial quantities of minerals are lost from the body when an athlete perspires during their training or performance, and must be adequately replaced in order to maintain peak physical condition.

Sodium in the body stimulates the condition of thirst in the body and causes an athlete to consume large quantities of fluids to quench the thirst developed. It also helps to improve the ability of the small intestine to absorb the water and carbohydrates consumed with the sports drinks. An average sports drink comprises of 0.2-0.6 percent of Sodium (i.e. 20-60 milligrams of Sodium per 100mL) along with other electrolytes in small quantities. Inadequate replenishment of Sodium in the body during highly strenuous sports and activities can lead to a number of harmful physical conditions.

Other important ingredients
Depending on the flavor of the drink as well as the price, sports drinks also contain a number of important ingredients that include Vitamins, Protein, Herbs and many others. These ingredients are usually added to the sports drinks in the form of flavoring agents, and have very little impact on the health aspects of the drinks. They usually have very little to negligible impact on the performance of the athlete, and hence, and not considered to be the most essential ingredients. However, there presence or absence has a tremendous impact on the flavors of the drink, and sometimes, also impact their prices.

Benefits of sports drinks for a runner
There are a number of benefits that an athlete can obtain from the use or consumption of sports drinks. Some of these important benefits have been discussed below.

Access to necessary carbohydrates
One of the most important advantages that sports drinks offer to an athlete is the supply of high quantity of carbohydrates. The American College of Sports Medicine recently published a report that states that every 8 ounce serving of any sports drink offers at least 13 to 19 grams of carbohydrates to the human body. Hence, these sports drinks supply large quantities of carbohydrates to replace the lost amounts during training or performance.

Adequate amounts of carbohydrates in the body increases the energy of the athletes before and after they perform in a competition. This also helps athletes in the recovery process after every performance or even training. Moreover, runners often find it difficult to consume solid food items right after training or a competition. This can cause a great deal of imbalance in the quantity of carbohydrate that they consume. However, consuming liquids is easier during this period, and sports drinks help to replenish the depleted carbohydrate content.

Adequate hydration without compromising on overall health
In order to perform well during a competition, it is very important for a runner to remain hydrated before as well as after a race, and sometimes, even during a race. Without adequate hydration, athletes suffer the risk of fatigue, increased heart-rate, malfunction of numerous body parts as well as the mind, and a number of other physical as well as mental conditions. Hence, it is important for sportspersons to consume large quantities of fluids at all times in order to maintain peak physical and mental condition for effective performance on the field.

Water often proves to be a great liquid to provide the body with the necessary hydration. However, plain water may not always be enough to provide the body with all the necessary minerals. Moreover, water is also tasteless, and not many runners enjoy the blatant taste of the fluid. Hence, sports drinks serve as the ideal alternatives. Not only do they come in a number of different flavors, they also carry the numerous minerals that are very crucial for the body and mind of a runner. With so many flavors to choose from, runners can pick their preferred flavors and replenish the essential minerals in their body.

Easy sources for Electrolytes replenishment
Sweat or perspiration is one of the most common phenomenons for any athlete during workouts, trainings or performance. During these periods, athletes and sportspersons tend to perspire a lot, and lose a great deal of minerals from their bodies, the most important among them being Electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals such as Potassium and Sodium among several others. If the lost quantity of these minerals is not replaced within the body, athletes can run the risk of losing the proper functioning of their muscles as well as the other effects of dehydration.

During these periods, the consumption of plain water alone is not enough to replenish the lost minerals within the body. Plain filtered water does not often contain the important minerals in their necessary quantities. This could often cause athletes to feel bloated and also lead to low levels of Potassium and Sodium in the body. Sports drinks contain adequate replacements for the lost electrolytes in the body and ensure that athletes receive proper replenishments of lost minerals for maintaining proper energy levels and appropriate functioning of the muscles.

There are a number of other important benefits that sports drinks offer to athletes and sportspersons.

What are the best times to consume sports drinks?
Although sports drinks can be consumed at any time of the day, it is best to drink the fluid only when involved in strenuous physical activities. Hence, there are specified time periods for the consumption of the drinks in order to derive the best results.

Before exercising, training or competing
One of the most critical complications that most athletes face before exercising, training or competing is the fact that they need to consume large quantities of carbohydrates to strengthen their body muscles, but are unable to consume any solid food items. The reason behind this is that such food items take a long time to digest, and can have a negative impact on the performance of an athlete. Sports drinks tend to be the ideal solutions during these times as they contain adequate carbohydrates that can be easily digested and stored as usable fuel for the muscles.

This allows runners to perform without feeling heavy or full as their stomach do not have to deal with the digestion of solid food items. Sports drinks also contain large quantities of Sodium that stimulates the consumption of fluids in the body and also helps to retain and absorb the consumed liquid.

During exercising, training or competing
Sports drinks can be consumed by an athlete during exercising, training or competing as they help a great deal in enhancing the performance of an athlete. This is due to the intake of water and carbohydrates which supplement the loss of water and essential minerals from the body through sweat and perspiration. This perspiration usually occurs during highly strenuous and high intensity workouts and sports. Most outdoor sports and games as well as numerous indoor games require a great deal of hard work and physical intensity from the sportspersons. This can cause the athletes to perspire a lot, and the consumptions of adequate quantities of fluids become a necessity.

For the recovery process after exercising, training or competing
When indulging in hard and strenuous sports and games, athletes tend to get dehydrated to a great extent. Hence, it is important for runners to consume substantial quantities of fluids to rehydrate and allow the body muscles to recover. This will allow the body muscles to regain the energy and strength necessary for subsequent workouts or competitions. It is also important to consume sports drinks along with adequate solid food in order to ensure that body of the athlete is supplied with all the necessary ingredients such as carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins and essential minerals.

Sports drinks are not the same as Energy drinks
There are several people who confuse sports drinks with energy drinks due to their similar meaning names. However, the two are very different from each other. Energy drinks usually tend to contain large quantities of sugar, flavoring agents and caffeine. These ingredients help to reduce fatigue in the body of users for long durations. However, if a user consumes these energy drinks in large quantities, they can suffer from numerous physical conditions.

The ingredients in these energy drinks can be very helpful in increasing the energy levels in the body for a long duration, but can be very harmful to the overall health of the body. On the other hand, sports drinks do not contain these harmful ingredients. Hence, athletes need to consume these drinks in large quantities in order to maintain a constantly high energy level and reduce fatigues levels within their bodies. The ingredients in sports drinks do not cause any damage to the body even if consumed in large quantities.

Popular examples of sports drinks are Powerade, Gatorade, Accelerade, Staminade, Lucozade and many others. On the other hand, Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar, NOS, AMP and Cloud 9 are popular examples of energy drinks available in the market.


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