As you exercise in the hotter weather, sweat rate increases, which is essential to maintaining thermo regulation in the body. When we sweat, we don’t only lose body water but we also lose key electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium – the main one lost being sodium. This loss in body fluids and electrolytes results in dehydration, which can have detrimental effects on athletic performance, with as little as a 1-2% loss in body weight being proven to affect our physical and/or performance. It is therefore crucial that athletes remain in a hydrated state at rest (having body fluids at their normal level) and before exercise, minimising dehydration to less than 1-2% during exercise and fully rehydrating after exercise. An ideal way to maintain hydration before, during and after exercise is to consume drinks high in electrolytes – including an isotonic sports drink.

What are the different types of sports drinks?

There are many different types of sport drinks out there – but what are the differences?

Sports drinks can be classed as hypotonic, hypertonic and isotonic. But what does this mean? A hypotonic sports drink is a dilute solution that contains roughly less than 40g or carbohydrate per litre (i.e. less than a 4% carbohydrate solution). A hypertonic drink on the other hand is more concentrated and contains more than 80g of carbohydrate per litre (greater than an 8% carbohydrate solution). An isotonic sports drink is a ‘typical’ sports drink that contains 40-80g of carbohydrate per litre (4-8% carbohydrate solution). This type of sports drink has the same osmolarity as body fluids and is therefore the most effective way to rehydrate both during and following exercise.

Sodium plays an important role in sports drinks, including helping to retain fluids in the body rather than eliminating fluid through urine or sweat. Studies have suggested that >30mM sodium solutions are best for rehydration, helping to reduce excessive urination - the reason we've formulated our HydraFuel and Hydra+ hydration supplements with  >30mM sodium.

Carbohydrate and isotonic sports drinks

Carbohydrate ingestion has been consistently proven to be beneficial for athletes competing in sports with high intensity efforts of longer durations than 60 minutes. Benefits in particular are seen in fuelling the repeated high intensity efforts as well as skill, decision making, cognitive function and reaction time - all of which are needed in sports activities such as netball, rugby and football.  In terms of quantity, research suggests 30-60g per hour is an ideal amount of carbohydrate to consume during high intensity exercise, which is approximately 0.5-1L of a typical 6% carbohydrate solution.

when to consume isotonic drinks

An isotonic drink would be beneficial in sports lasting more than 60 minutes, such as football and rugby. These drinks can be consumed during the warm up, throughout the first half, at half time and then during the 2nd half, aiming to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. For rehydration purposes, aim to consume an isotonic drink - like HydraFuel- immediately after exercise for maximum benefits.

Make your own sports drink

A handy way to make your own sports drink is by adding 200ml of fruit juice (pineapple is great) to 400ml of cold water and finish with a pinch of salt (you should just about taste the salt)!