Last time on my blog, I looked at the importance of hydration and consuming plenty of liquids, primarily water, one those hot riding days.
This week, I’ll take a closer look at sport drinks and the role they can play in hydration. While water is an important source of hydration during these hot summer months, sometimes sports drinks can offer an advantage for heavy exercise or racing.
A good sports drink will supply fuel largely in the form of carbohydrates to top up blood sugar/ glycogen stores and delay fatigue. It will also aid in hydration and replenishing electrolytes.
When you’re looking for a sports drink, take a look at the label for ingredients and nutritional information. Ideally, you want to look for sports drinks that are high in carbohydrates (20-30 grams per serving), with little of those grams coming from sugar. In the case of Heed sports drink that I mentioned last week, it comes with 26 grams of carbohydrates per serving, with two grams derived from sugar. Heed also has a healthy amount of sodium (40mg/ serving) and potassium (25mg/ serving) that helps replenish electrolytes. Whether you choose to go with Heed or a similar sports drink, it will be important to remember to read the label before you buy.
I mentioned in my previous blog, other sports drinks such as Cytomax and Gatorade are also popular alternatives, however both have come under criticism for being filled predominantly with sugar. While Cytomax remains a viable option with 22 grams of carbohydrate/ serving, with 12 of those grams coming from sugar, Gatorade’s sugar content is quite high, with 32 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of which come from sugar (Gatorade Perform G-Series, Fruit Punch flavor). Gatorade is also quite high in sodium (210mg per serving) vs 40mg/ serving in Heed or 120mg/ serving with Cytomax.
Energy Drinks are not Sports Drinks!
When we talk about sports drinks, this should not be confused with the latest wave of Energy Drinks such as Rock Star, Monster Energy and Red Bull whose marketing departments have targeted the extreme sports industry heavily in recent years.
For the most part, while they may one day become a sponsor of yours, these types of energy drinks should not be confused with the sports drinks mentioned above. Sports drinks are generally found in a powder format, must be mixed with water to drink, and are generally found at your local sports nutrition or health food store. Energy drinks are more widely available in gas stations, grocery stores and even your local corner store.
However, energy drinks are very high in sugar content and lack the carbohydrates or other nutrients necessary to aid in the hydration process. A typical 16oz can of Monster Energy contains 54 grams of sugar and no electrolytes. Meanwhile, a 16oz can of Red Bull tops the charts with 62 grams of sugar, with Red Bull coming in at 52 grams of sugar for a 16oz can.
These drinks are often high in caffeine content, and while they might help you stay awake during that long drive home from the racetrack, they will do little to help with your hydration efforts.
There are plenty of sports drinks out there on the market and it will be up to you to decide what combination of nutrients and taste works best for you. When in doubt, continue to drink plenty of water and combine that with some healthy fruits and vegetables and you should get the most out of your riding experience on those hot summer days!