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Sports Drinks, According to a Dietitian

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Sports drinks, or electrolyte-enriched beverages, help replace fluids, electrolytes, and energy lost during exercise. These drinks often contain a source of energy-boosting carbohydrates, as well as a balance of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help combat dehydration, replete glycogen stores, and delay fatigue.

  • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that individuals partaking in vigorous exercise for one hour or longer consider drinking a carbohydrate-based sports beverage, especially if they are sweating heavily.2 Registered dietitian Kristy Baumann, RD, who specializes in running nutrition, recommends a sports drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates when engaging in prolonged physical activity, noting the importance of focusing on sodium to aid in hydration and replenish losses through sweat.
  • There are many options on the market when it comes to sports drinks, including ready-to-drink beverages and mix-with-water tablets or powders. Consider your electrolyte, fueling, and hydration needs when choosing a product. We evaluated products based on taste, carbohydrate and electrolyte content, and ingredient quality.

Best Overall:
Scratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix contains carbohydrates for energy and the electrolytes lost in sweat to help you stay hydrated.

Best on the go:
Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier provides carbs, electrolytes and B vitamins in a convenient single serving pack to toss in your gym bag. Before adding supplements to your routine, always consult your doctor to ensure that the supplement is suitable for your individual needs and the dosage you should be taking.

Do sports drinks work?


You probably don’t need a sports drink unless you exercise for a long time, drink enough fluids and eat a balanced and varied diet. The added sugars and electrolytes in sports drinks are specifically formulated for physical activity, because they can help you stay fueled and hydrated, which can delay fatigue and enhance performance.

Sports drinks may help you avoid dehydration if you are:

Engaging in prolonged exercise: If you are exercising for over an hour, you may benefit from sports drinks. They will not only help you stay hydrated, they will also provide you with carbohydrates to keep you fueled.

Exercising in the heat: If you are exercising in the heat, you may want to hydrate with more than plain water. Consuming large amounts of plain water can result in a condition known as hyponatremia, or low levels of sodium in the blood. Opt for a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates to help you avoid dehydration.

Experiencing altitude shifts: Altitude changes can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Adding a sports drink, water, and carbohydrates can help you avoid side effects.

Experiencing illness-related fluid losses: When you are ill and lose fluids through vomit or diarrhea, you also lose electrolytes. Sports drinks can help you stay hydrated and replace lost electrolytes while providing easy-to-drink energy.

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