A big area of confusion for athletes is knowing when to utilize sports drinks versus plain water. There are definitely a few scenarios where a sports drink offers a convenient and effective option for topping off, maintaining and replenishing fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate stores. The timely incorporation of sports drinks to optimize performance and recovery is ideal for athletes who:
Before and during workouts, the benefit of sports drinks is clear in that they offer a convenient "one-stop" source of fluids, electrolytes and easily-digestible carbohydrates. They are portable and thirst-quenching, meaning, the additional of sodium and flavor encourages users to consume more fluids than if one were drinking plain water only. The addition of electrolytes to beverages before, during and after workouts encourages encourage fluid retention by reducing urine output. Electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, serve to speed gastric emptying rate and promote absorption greater absorption of fluid and carbohydrate from the small intestine. Basically, the pairing of fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrate enhances your body's ability to readily digest and absorb all of these nutrients - they are complimentary to each other!
After workouts, the consumption of a sports drink is great way to jumpstart the recovery process through the timely replenishment of carbohydrate, fluid and electrolytes. This is especially helpful in the summer when warmer temperatures increase fluid needs yet also serves to blunt appetite. I often with sip on this drink immediately post-workout to help bring down my core body temp, quench my thirst and jumpstart the replenishment of carbohydrate until I am able to get in a solid meal or snack. It's especially convenient to pack in a cooler if I'm driving to and from workouts and gives me something yummy to sip on during the drive home!
This sports drink recipe has been a personal favorite and my go-to pre- and/or post-workout beverage over the past two years. As someone with a high sweat rate, I have to be very intentional in keeping up with my fluid needs during the summer months. I created this sports drink to encourage greater fluid intake, knowing that I personally drink better when I add a little sweetness and sodium to my beverages! Not only does it offer fluids, electrolytes and easily digestible carbohydrate, the utilization of tart cherry juice as a natural flavor and coloring agent provides antioxidants to combat muscle soreness and aid in the recovery process. I feel much better knowing that the bright and beautiful color of this drink is due to the natural pigmentation of fruit rather than the addition of dyes. Though I don't normally consume this beverage during workouts, I specifically designed it to be isotonic, meaning the carbohydrate concentration is within the ideal range of 6-8% for optimal absorption.
Athletes are consistently looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. For me, that means making the most of my fluid intake and finding simple ways to stay on top of hydration and enhance recovery. I hope you enjoy this recipe!!
16 oz tart cherry juice
32 oz water or coconut water*
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 orange, sliced, then quartered
1/2 tsp sea salt or BASE Performance Salts
2 tsp orange zest (optional)
Combine all of your ingredients in a glass pitcher or divide among two quart-sized mason jars. Shake or stir to mix, then refrigerated overnight to allow flavors to fully combine. Yield is 6-8oz servings.
Per 8oz serving: 75 calories, 17 g carbohydrate, 80 mg sodium, 334 mg potassium
Carbohydrate concentration = 7.5%
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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