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What Are the Effects of Sports Drinks on Humans?

By Lisa Sefcik

Sports drinks appeal to people just starting an exercise program. The American Council on Exercise, or ACE, points out that sports drinks can be a boon to your health when you need to rehydrate — but a bust to your weight. The effects of sports drinks on your body can be extremely beneficial if your workouts are hard and heavy. However, if your exercise routine is light to moderate, you may not need these drinks.

Benefits of Sports Drinks

Sports drinks have what plain water doesn't: electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that you lose whenever you perspire heavily. ACE blogger Fabio Comana, M.A., M.S., explains that rehydration is crucial after your workout and goes on to note that the easiest way to determine how much fluid you lose through exercise is to weigh yourself before and after your workout. If you notice a 1 lb. weight loss, or 16 oz., this doesn't necessarily mean that you should drink 16 oz. of water or sports drink to rehydrate. Drinking water is one way to rehydrate; however, Comana states that a lot of water is lost through urination before it replenishes your cells. Sports drinks, on the other hand, contain electrolytes and carbohydrates that encourage fluid retention; this means that your body can rehydrate with less — and more quickly. For 16 oz. of fluid loss, you need only consume 16 to 20 oz. of your favorite sports drink. If you choose water, the general rule is that you need to drink 19 to 24 oz. for each pound of fluid you lose during exercise.

Sports Drinks and Weight

Unfortunately, sports drinks also have calories — and the calories you get from these beverages can make up for those that you burned during your workout, according to ACE, which goes on to point out that a 185 lb. man would have to shoot basketball hoops for almost 20 minutes to burn off the 150 calories he gets from a 24-oz. sports drink. Drinking these beverages can lead to weight gain rather than weight loss. Comana indicates that fitness professionals should consider both their clients' need to spare calories with their need to rehydrate quickly when recommending a sports drink or water.

Sports Drinks Nutrition

Most commercial sports drinks contain 50 calories per cup-sized serving, along with varying amounts of sodium, potassium and carbohydrates, depending on the brand. "Recovery" sports drinks, on the other hand, may have more than 100 calories per cup. Some reduced calorie sports drinks may have only 10 calories per every 8 oz. serving and may be a better choice if calories are a concern.

When to Drink Them states that you don't need sports drinks unless you work up a sweat for an hour or longer. Comana concurs, stating that people who engage in moderately intense exercise for less than 60 minutes are best served by drinking plain water to replace the fluids they lose through physical activity. Sports drinks also have a place outside of your gym. Drinking these beverages can help adults rehydrate after an illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

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