Are sports drinks better than water, juice or soda?
Carbohydrate-based drinks, like Gatorade, are designed with a balance of ingredients to encourage fluid absorption. That is why they contain a certain level and blend of sugars, sodium and potassium. An ideal sports beverage provides between 10-14 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces. If you are exercising longer than one hour, are a "salty sweater", or it's very hot and humid...hydrate with a sports drink. If your workout is under one hour and moderate weather conditions, water is probably enough. Straight fruit juice or soda has too much sugar which slows down fluid absorption, and it doesn’t have the sodium you need to replace. The sodium and flavor in sports beverages encourage you to drink, whereas water can get a bit boring when you have a lot of fluid to replace. If you want flavored water and don’t need the carbs, try a product like Propel. If you need extra electrolytes, but not extra carbs you may want to try
Enylten Electrolyte Plus Strips.
You still need to drink fluid since the strips only provide extra electrolytes.
Are there different types of sports drinks?
Yes, these drinks are carbohydrate supplements that differ in form and function. If you buy a powdered product, make sure you follow the instructions directly. Diluting or concentrating the sports beverage defeats the design. Powdered products might be cheaper, but you have to plan ahead to mix and chill. You also want to make sure the water source is safe and clean. Powder is easier to take with if you're traveling, or don't want to carry the heavy drinks on the training/race course. Bottled drinks are convenient, come in many sizes in containers that can be recycled.
As for function, there are basic formulas, endurance formulas, and recovery drinks (such as Endurox R4) depending on your training plan and conditions. Gatorade Endurance Formula, for example, contains the same carbs per ounce as the basic Gatorade, but the sodium is higher to replace the higher amount of salt lost in lengthy training. Some sports beverages contain protein, extra vitamins and other ingredients. There are even sports drinks that can be custom made (for elite athletes). Keep trying different flavors, forms, and brands until you find the right one.
Check with your training program and with the race (website) to find out what brand of sports drink (and what flavor) will be available. For example, Gatorade supplies the Chicago Marathon with Lemon Lime Gatorade Endurance. You want to include the specific sports drink in your training to make sure you tolerate it and it works to fuel your needs without complications on race day. If the product is not a match for you, you'll need to supply your own choice of sports beverage. Double check if they are offering a "regular" formula or an "endurance" formula. The differences may or may not be tolerated by you. The purpose of a training program is to practice your hydration and nutrition, as well as your running, swimming, cycling, etc.
Bottom line…choose a product you that meets your
sports nutrition goals
, that you tolerate, and that you like enough to drink enough.
Can I gain weight with a sports drink?
Yes, with two factors to consider. One, did you work out enough to need those carb calories, or would water have been enough? Long-term abuse of calories could lead to eventual weight gain. On a more dangerous note, you should not be gaining weight during a workout or performance. This could mean you are over-hydrating (and diluting your body’s sodium level) and may need to seek medical attention. Hydration (under or over) is a great reason why you should always weigh yourself before and after a training session or performance. If you drank enough, your weight should be about the same.