For athletes, staying hydrated is vital. During your workout, your body temperature rises and you produce sweat, which keeps your body cool but causes you to lose water along with sodium and sugars needed for maximum performance and overall health. While you may choose a sports drink to replace these nutrients, not all of them are the same. Beyond brand names, there are three types of sports drinks that contain different levels of carbohydrates and electrolytes.
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Isotonic sports drinks have the same balance of ingredients, such as sugar and electrolytes, that are normally found in your body. They also have higher amounts of calories than the other types of drinks. Because of the similar balance of ingredients, these drinks are absorbed at a slow pace, providing longer-lasting energy. With such lasting effects, this type of sports drink is ideal to drink before you begin a long workout.
Hypotonic drinks have a lower balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes than the amount normally in your body, but higher amounts of sugar and potassium. They absorb quickly into your body. This formula gives you a short boost of energy during the most intense part of your workout, helping you produce maximum effort, and is recommended throughout your workout.
Of the three types of sports drinks, hypertonic drinks contain the greatest amounts of sugar and protein compared to the normal amounts in your body. Their high levels of protein allow for the slowest rate of absorption. But they contain the highest levels of sugar, giving you a long-term boost that prevents you from crashing after your workout is over. This makes them good recovery drinks.
While you may think vitamin drinks are the same as sports drinks, they’re not. Vitamin drinks play a key role in providing vitamins and minerals needed for overall daily health. Sports drinks are formulated to replace lost ingredients needed to maintain energy and metabolism levels during your workouts. So while vitamin drinks can help you fill in the nutritional gaps, they're not as effective as sports drinks in terms of fueling your physical exercise.