Most people assume that since sports drinks include the word “sport” in them, then it must be necessary to drink them when participating in any kind of workout or athletic activity. They must contain some special ingredients that increase an athlete’s performance, right? The truth is, they do contain electrolytes, which are the substances that control osmosis in the body and help maintain the acid-base balance required for normal cellular activities.

There are three popular types of sports drinks:

• Isotonic - quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrates; made for the average athlete.
• Hypotonic - quickly replaces fluid lost, and is best for low-perspiration athletes such as jockeys and gymnasts.
• Hypertonic – supplements daily carbohydrate intake after exercise to top current glycogen stores. This drink is used primarily for athletes such as long distance runners who need the extra carbohydrates and electrolytes.

The body sweats in order to maintain proper body heat, and in the process, electrolytes are lost. Many people do not know that the body’s production of sweat is controlled to ensure that only small amounts of electrolytes are lost in perspiration. The kidneys also conserve fluid and electrolytes by cutting back on urine production during dehydration. Experts say it is only after one hour of strenuous exercise such as running that electrolytes need to be replenished.

The key to good hydration is drinking a lot of water before, during and after any workout or activity. Water is essential for proper bodily function. According to a recent study, after 2% of a person’s body weight is lost through perspiration, the person experiences impaired performance. After 4%, the capacity for muscular work declines, after 5% heat exhaustion, 7% hallucination, and after 10% you experience circulatory collapse and heat stroke. Sports drinks aren’t the only way to consume electrolytes. Eating a normal diet will provide the body with more than enough electrolytes needed for exercising and physical activity.

One of the reasons that sports drinks are so popular is the fact that they taste good. Many manufacturers only add sugar, flavor and color to attract the consumer, even though the drink contains no electrolytes and is simply flavored water. The sugar and flavoring added to the water makes people want to drink more. This is good for your body, but is not so nice for your wallet.

If you enjoy drinking sports drinks you may want to know that you can easily make them at a fraction of the cost. For a hypotonic drink, you can mix 100 ml of frozen orange juice concentrate, 1 liter of water and a pinch of salt. An isotonic drink is made of the same ingredients but you would use 200 ml of the frozen orange juice concentrate. For a hypertonic drink, you would need to increase the amount of concentrate to 400 ml. You can experiment with different juices and vary the amount of juice used and your new mix will have all the benefits of a sports drink without the high cost.
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