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When You Need A Sports Drink

During physical workout in hot conditions you need to drink a liquid, and enough of it, or risk heat-stroke or another heat-related illness. A sports drink may be your best choice if you are engaged in intense athletic activity.

A recent study has shown that athletes can stave off fatigue 37% longer if they take a sports drink - the kind with electrolytes and carbohydrates in them. Athletes can also run faster, have better motor skills, and are mentally sharper.

But there is more than the traditional Gatorade on offer. Sports drinks, energy drinks, bottled water and fitness water are competitors.

Which do you choose?

Not-too-soft drinks...Soft drinks are never a good option during sports. They have no electrolytes, so they really do not replenish what the body needs.

Energy Drinks...Some energy drinks can have huge amounts of caffeine -- which can be a diuretic and can even have a laxative effect. This can worsen the dehydration effects often experienced with heavy exercise.

Sports Drinks...When you exercise heavily, you lose water and salts in your sweat. Gatorade was an advance over water because it added a number of electrolytes that were lost in sweat.

Today's sports drinks are still the classic Gatorade and, more recently, Cytomax, Allsport, and Accelerade - packed with the electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium to provide energy during intensive workouts.

Regular sips of an electrolyte drink should be taken to make sure the body does not overheat. This is also an energy source - one that only serious athletes need.

The amount of sugar in the sports drink is relatively small compared to the amount of sugar someone burns in exercise. But clearly, it's better than nothing as a calorie source. Certainly, for people exercising in a hot environment, an electrolyte replacer can be a lifesaver.

Electrolyte drinks provide the body with fuel in the right quantities, so you don't get an upset stomach. The carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium help move fluid more quickly out of the body and into the muscles, where it needs to be during exercise.

Electrolyte-Plus Drinks... Any add-ons to the basic electrolyte drink - whether it's choline, creatine, or something else - makes no difference to anyone except the professionals in pursuit of world records.

Recovery Drinks...Protein drinks can have mimiscule effects. However, "recovery drinks" likeEndurox R-4 help endurance athletes recover from a workout. Recovery drinks have a heavier mix of carbohydrates replenishment ; they replenish glycogen stores, and usually have anti-oxidants to help reduce muscle stress, and protein to help muscle recovery.

Even the week-end warrior who plays a lot of tennis one day, who is sore the next, could benefit from consuming one of these within the first 30 minutes after playing, to help reduce muscle soreness. For less intensive exercise, water will do.

How much should you drink?

If you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. Drink something every 15 to 20 minutes, if possible. If this is not possible, you may have to drink extra before you exercise, so you have enough liquid in your body. See Avoid Dehydration When Exercising.

Don't try something new before competition. The body needs to get used to new fluids, so do it really gradually. Consume sport drinks only during exercise periods - not during relaxation periods!

12/27/02
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