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Sports nutrition: Facts on sports drinks



Sports drinks are beverages made of water, sugars, small amounts of minerals like sodium and potassium and sometimes other ingredients. They are made with specific amounts of sodium and sugar to make it easy for your body to absorb. Sports drinks may help improve how well you perform a sport by replacing the nutrients that are lost in your muscles.  Read on to learn more about sports drinks and if they could benefit you. 




How do sports drinks help you play sports better? 

Sports drinks give you the carbohydrates (sugars) and fluid you need to fuel your muscles and stay hydrated.

You may lose large amounts of water and sodium as you sweat.  Sports drinks help make sure that the sodium that is lost in sweat during exercise is replaced. The right amount of sodium in your body helps you stay hydrated. 


I like playing sports, but I’m not an athlete. Would I benefit from a sports drink?

Non-athletes are usually not exercising long enough or at a level intense enough to need sports drinks. Plain water is usually the best choice. 


When should I use a sports drink?

Drinking a sports drink may be better than drinking water in some situations. You may benefit from sports drinks if you are doing heavy exercise or playing intense sports for 45 minutes or more, especially in hot or humid weather.

Examples include going for a run or a bike ride, weight-lifting or playing sports like tennis, hockey, soccer, basketball or football. 


Should I drink fruit juice or pop when I play sports?

No. Drinks like pop or fruit juice are too high in sugar. The body cannot absorb them very well during exercise. High sugar drinks can often increase the risk of dehydration and cause bloating, nausea or stomach upset.

Water or sports drinks are the best choice while playing sports.


How much should I drink?

This depends on things like the temperature outside and how much you sweat. Most people can meet their fluid needs by following these tips:

  • Up to 4 hours before playing a sport, slowly drink about 5 to 7 mL per kilogram of body weight. This is approximately 1 to 2 cups of water or sport drink. This amount will be different depending on your weight.  
  • If over the next 2 hours no urine is produced or it is dark in colour, slowly drink another 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of water or sport drink.
  • Start drinking early and regularly to help replace all the water lost through sweating.

Drink more sport drink if: 

  • You sweat a lot 
  • You are wearing heavy sports equipment (like in hockey or football)
  • You are exercising in the heat


Are sports drinks safe?

Most brands of sports drinks are safe to use. There are safety concerns when a sports drink contains caffeine, herbs or other unregulated substances. Carbohydrates and minerals like sodium are the only ingredients proven for safety and performance. Other ingredients such as herbs, amino acids and caffeine should be avoided.

If you have questions about a certain sports drink, call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email


The bottom line

Drinking a sports drink may be better than drinking water in some situations. You may benefit from sports drinks if you do heavy exercise or sports for more than 45 minutes at a time. Most people who enjoy being active, but are not athletes, are usually not exercising long enough or at a level intense enough to need sports drinks. Plain water is usually the best choice.

Be sure to read labels when buying sports drinks. If you have questions about a certain sports drink, call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

 

You may also be interested in

Sport nutrition: Facts on sports supplements

Sport nutrition: Facts on hydration

Sports nutrition: Facts on vitamins and minerals

Sport nutrition: Facts on carbohydrate, fat and protein

 

 

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Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.