When do you drink which sports drink?
The sports drink that is best for you depends on various factors. Do you mainly want to replenish fluids? Or do you prefer to maximize your carbohydrate intake? Are you using the drink before or during exercise? Are you exercising in hot or cold weather? The best choice is primarily dependent on the circumstances and the type of exercise. Please refer to the table below for a complete overview.
|Throughout the day, to meet daily fluid needs.||❌||❌||✔️||❌|
|As a carbo-loader leading up to an endurance exercise.||❌||✔️||❌||❌|
|Before exercise, when energy intake during exercise is insufficient.||✔️||✔️||❌||❌|
|Before exercise, in a very hot and/or humid environment where sweat losses cannot be adequately replenished.||❌||❌||❌||✔️|
|Before and during a fasted training session.||❌||❌||✔️||❌|
|During an exercise of < 1 hour where sweat losses can accumulate (e.g., intensive indoor sessions).||❌||❌||✔️||❌|
|During exercises of > 1 hour in normal to hot weather.||✔️||❌||❌||❌|
|During exercises of > 1 hour in cold weather.||❌||✔️||❌||❌|
|During an exercise of > 1 hour where limited fluid intake is possible (e.g., team sports).||❌||✔️||❌||❌|
|During exercises when hitting the wall (bonking) occurs.||❌||✔️||❌||❌|
|During a short maximal exercise or in the case of gastrointestinal issues, where rinsing the mouth with sugars can be beneficial.||✔️||✔️||❌||❌|
Although the sports drinks mentioned above are primarily used before and/or during exercise, there are other beverages such as recovery shakes and protein drinks that are commonly consumed after exercise.
Why drink during exercise?
During exercise, you lose fluid through sweating. The amount of sweat a person loses is highly individual and strongly dependent on the environment and the intensity of the activity. At low intensity, you sweat less; in hot weather, you sweat more. Performance decline can occur when you lose as little as 2% of your body weight in fluids (e.g., 1400ml for a 70kg athlete). How much you sweat and the amount you need to drink to avoid performance decline will have to be determined through a sweat test. However, sweat losses of 500-2000ml per hour are not uncommon. When exercising for more than 1 hour, it is advisable to drink about 125-250ml every 15-20 minutes. Therefore, don't rely solely on thirst as an indicator of when to drink! Start with one bottle (500ml) per hour, and then adjust as needed.
What is a sports drink made of?
Sweat consists not only of fluid but also electrolytes (including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium), commonly referred to as salts. In addition to dehydration, a deficiency in sodium can also lead to muscle cramps and performance decline. Since sodium is the primary electrolyte in sweat, it needs to be replenished. Water is not always the best choice. A good sports drink contains water, a pleasant flavour, and an adequate amount of sodium.
During intense exercises lasting longer than 90 minutes, in addition to fluid and salts, you will also need to maintain your energy level. That's why most sports drinks also contain carbohydrates as a source of energy. All these components (carbohydrates, electrolytes, etc.) affect the osmolality of the sports drink. The higher the number of particles in the drink, the higher the osmolality, and the slower the absorption of fluids by the intestines.
What are the main differences between types of sports drinks?
There are three different types of sports drinks: isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic sports drinks. Although the classification is theoretically based on osmotic value (number of particles in the drink), in practice, the carbohydrate content will primarily determine the categorisation.
What is an isotonic sports drink?
Most sports drinks are ISOTONIC*, meaning they contain between 20 and 40 grams of carbohydrates per 500 millilitres. In addition to fluids and salts, they also provide energy. These isotonic drinks are commonly known as thirst quenchers. Isotonic sports drinks like the ISOTONIC SPORTS DRINK strike a balance when you want to hydrate relatively quickly while also taking in a substantial amount of energy.
*Isotonic = having an equal concentration of particles as in the blood (270-330 mmol/kg).
What is a hypertonic sports drink?
The second type are HYPERTONIC* sports drinks, also known as ENERGY DRINKS. They typically contain more than 40 grams of carbohydrates per 500 ml. Due to the high carbohydrate concentration, hypertonic drinks are absorbed more slowly by the body, resulting in slower fluid replenishment and an increased risk of gastrointestinal issues during exercise. However, hypertonic sports drinks like the ENERGY SPORTS DRINK have their place during exercise, particularly when the need for energy outweighs the need for fluids.
*Hypertonic = having a higher concentration of particles than in the blood (>330 mmol/kg)
What is a hypotonic sports drink?
If a sports drink contains less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per 500 ml, it is referred to as a HYPOTONIC* drink. These provide little to no energy but do supply fluids (and salts). Water is a well-known example, as well as electrolyte drinks like popular low-calorie and/or sugar-free sports drinks and oral rehydration solution (ORS) formulas, which are usually hypotonic. Hypotonic sports drinks like the HYDRO/ORS are absorbed by the body most rapidly and are therefore the best choice when quickly replenishing fluids takes priority over replenishing energy stores.
*Hypotonic = having a lower concentration of particles than in the blood (<270 mmol/kg)
What is the difference in taste and convenience?
Taste is an important and determining factor when choosing the right sports drink. Team athletes often prefer a sports drink with a stronger, but often more acidic taste like the ENERGY SPORTS DRINK. That's why many brands offer ready-to-drink sports drinks that are always strong and more acidic in taste. Endurance athletes, such as cyclists, often prefer a sports drink powder with a mild (pH-neutral) taste like the ISOTONIC SPORTS DRINK, especially if they have a sensitive stomach or sensitive teeth.
If you want a powder but also the convenience of a ready-to-drink sports drink, opt for the HYDRO/ORS or the single-dose packaging of the ISOTONIC SPORTS DRINK. Making your own sports drink can now be very easy during exercise, on the go, or at work.
When should I use the Isobuffer Sports Drink?
The ISOBUFFER SPORTS DRINK belongs to the category of isotonic sports drinks in principle. However, there is a fundamental difference with the ISOTONIC SPORTS DRINK. The ISOBUFFER SPORTS DRINK distinguishes itself from "ordinary" isotonic sports drinks by the addition of a high dose of "buffering" salts. As a result, this sports drink can improve sprint performance in specific situations and when used correctly. It is particularly beneficial for competitive athletes and therefore not the most suitable option for recreational athletes.
Combining sports drinks with other sports nutrition?
If you start exercising with a full fuel tank together with using the right sports drink, you will be able to exercise intensively for 90-120 minutes. If you are going to exercise for longer periods, it's advisable to bring additional energy in the form of energy bars and/or gels to prevent hitting the wall (bonking).
Curious about how to combine sports drinks with other 6d products based on your sport? Take a look at our sport-specific-pages.
Making your own sports drink?
You can find various recipes online for preparing homemade sports drinks. However, since they often involve diluting fruit juice with salt or making sugar water with salt, the taste is usually not great. Additionally, it's difficult to determine the exact osmotic value, and even commercial sports drinks rarely mention the osmolality on the label. In our sports drinks, the osmotic value, as well as the acidity level, are always indicated on the label or product page. This way, you know exactly which sports drink to purchase.
Need advice on sports nutrition?
Still unsure about which sports drink to use for your sport or goal? Don't hesitate to contact us.