Isotonic drinks are commercially manufactured beverages that are aimed at sports people of all levels. We look at the benefits of isotonic drinks for cyclists.
What is a sports drink?
Isotonic sports drinks are specially formulated to help people rehydrate during or after exercise. Most of these drinks are high in simple carbohydrates. Carbs offer a fast and efficient source of energy.
As well as the carbs, sports drinks include electrolytes. These are the minerals, such as sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium, which tend to reduce as you sweat through exercise.
In addition, sports drinks are likely to include flavourings, sweeteners and preservatives.
You can buy sports drinks as a bottled fluid or as a sports drink powder, which you add to water yourself.
What is an isotonic sports drink?
Isotonic sports drinks are the type that most people would consume during exercise and they are particularly popular with people taking part in endurance activities, such as longer bike rides.
Isotonic drinks contain similar concentrations of salt and sugar as is found in the human body. These drinks quickly replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating and give a boost of simple carbohydrate.
Do we need a carbs boost?
Carbs are stored in our bodies, in the liver and muscles, as glycogen. This is converted to glucose to be used as a source of energy when we exercise.
Glycogen is responsible for the contraction of muscles and fuels our organs, including the brain.
When we exercise hard or for longer periods, muscle glycogen stores are reduced, which can then affect performance.
These glycogen stores need to be replenished to maintain performance and Isotonic drinks are one way to do so.
In addition, exercise can affect electrolyte levels in our body. These play an important role in the optimal hydration of the body and also in the maintenance of balanced pH levels of the blood.
Many Isotonic drinks also include electrolytes to help to replenish your fatiguing body as you exercise.
It’s also worth thinking about
Isotonic drinks are very useful but they can contain high levels of sugar and sweeteners, which should be avoided if you are hoping to lose weight. Sugars also lead to dental decay.
In particular, these drinks are not suitable for children or for people who will not burn off the sugar as energy.
However, when used correctly and during the right type of exercise, such as a sportive event of more than a couple of hours, isotonic drinks are definitely a useful and convenient form of re-fuelling. See Evans Cycles sports food and drink.