While sports drinks can contain other ingredients like antioxidants, vitamins, and natural and artificial flavors, these functional beverages are essentially a combination of electrolytes and simple carbs – plus water. Today, we’re delving into the science behind these staple ingredients and the role they play in your favorite sports drinks.
What are Electrolytes?
If you don’t know what electrolytes are, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. As strange as it sounds, electrolytes are chemical substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. We lose electrolytes when we workout or when we’re recovering from an illness (yes, hangovers count too). Consuming drinks high in electrolytes, like sports drinks, can help you get back on track.
Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonates, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and more.
Why Electrolytes are Good for Your Health
Maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes is essential for normal functioning of the human body. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function and electrolytes provide this charge. By interacting with cells and tissues, electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, keep your body hydrated, balance blood acidity, and assist in rebuilding damaged tissue. If left unchecked, electrolyte imbalances (excess or deficiency) can cause twitching and weakness, or worse symptoms like seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.
This is where sports drinks come in. Consuming sports drinks can help you replenish your body’s supply of electrolytes. Per the name, these types of beverages are primarily consumed by athletes who regularly need to restock on electrolytes during and after exercise.
What are Simple Carbs?
There are two major types of carbohydrates in foods and beverages: complex carbs are fiber and starch, whereas simple carbs are essentially sugars. Simple carbs are a staple in sports drinks and can be sourced from raw sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, fructose, sucrose, or something else.
The Role of Simple Carbs in Sports Drinks
Not only do carbs add sweetness and flavor to your favorite sports drinks, but they also serve a functional purpose. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar is contained in your sports drinks (and how many calories it contributes), but some sugar is useful. Simple carbs can provide energy and help your body maintain stable blood glucose levels during a workout.
Of course, sugars are not all created equally. Different sugars use different transport mechanisms to pass through the intestinal wall: that means the type of sugars and sugar combinations you’re consuming (and your rate of consumption) will impact your body’s ability to effectively absorb and oxidize those carbs. Do your own research and find out which sugars are best for you and your workout routine.
It’s important to monitor the quality of ingredients in any beverage we choose to consume, but sports drinks can be a great option for active adults looking for a refreshing and delicious way to stay hydrated. With the recommended daily fluid intake at 91 ounces for adult women and 125 ounces for adult men, we can all use a boost now and then.
If you’ve got an innovative idea for the next sports drink, Flavorman can help you bring it to life! Get started by filling out this webform or by giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.