What Should An Athlete Drink?
Studies have found that athletes consume more fluid when the beverage is cool, is flavored, and contains salt, making sports drinks an ideal choice during exercise. Well designed sports drinks also contain carbohydrate at a concentration (4-8%) that allows blood sugar to remain normal and helps to provide an important fuel to working muscles.
Historically it was thought that sports drinks were only important for exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes. Recently, however, the intake of carbohydrate and fluid has been shown to also be beneficial for high intensity exercise of shorter duration. This makes sports drinks a good option for most sports.
When deciding on when to drink, it is important for athletes to not rely on thirst. Thirst is an emergency sensation indicating that 1.5 liters of body water has already been lost, which is associated with lower sweat rates, compromised cooling capacity, poor delivery of fluid and energy to working muscles, and higher heart rates. Ideally, the athlete should drink on a fixed schedule (perhaps every 10 to 15 minutes, depending on sweat rate) to avoid thirst.
Soft drinks and fruit juices generally contain greater than 10% carbohydrate and are low in sodium, making them poor choices as sports beverages. The higher carbohydrate concentrations can slow down gastric emptying, resulting in GI upset.
How hydrated are you?
Well hydrated athletes typically have clear or nearly clear urine. Darker urine means the kidneys are trying to concentrate the nitrogen and other metabolites that must be excreted in a lower volume of fluid to preserve body water. Try to drink enough to maintain a relatively clear urine. As a general rule, NEVER allow yourself to get thirsty, which is also a sign of dehydration.
Recommendations by Sport
“Data suggest that athletes should adjust to consuming a carbohydrate-containing fluid during exercise. Consumed carbohydrate helps athletes avoid depletion of muscle glycogen and provides fuel for muscles when muscle glycogen is low. Carbohydrate also helps maintain mental function, which is critical for maintaining endurance performance. Mental fatigue leads to muscle fatigue, even if muscles have plenty of glycogen and fluids.
Different activities result in different rates of carbohydrate utilization, but consuming carbohydrate-containing fluid consistently helps maintain athletic performance, regardless of the sport. Athletes should try to consume approximately 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute of exercise. This intake level can be achieved by drinking solutions that contain between 6 and 8 percent carbohydrate at a volume of .6 to 1.2 liters per hour.”
Dan Benardot. “Advanced Sports Nutrition, Second Edition.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Un9GF.l