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Sports Drinks for Recreational Runners

by dietitian Clare Wood

Sports drinks can be useful for hydrating and fueling a run, or rehydrating and refueling as part of recovery.

gatorade drink station gatorade drink station during a fun run

Replacing Sweat

Sweat lost during exercise contains both fluid and electrolytes. We don't all sweat the same. It depends on body size, environmental conditions and exercise intensity. In any case, it needs to be replaced. What are the best fluids to drink to rehydrate? You cannot go past water, though there are benefits from consuming other fluids such as sports drinks to complement water intake.

Energy Source

Sports drinks can be a simple way to get the energy your body needs for exercise. If your runs are not so challenging, a better option would be the lower carbohydrate Sports Water range, or the No Calorie sports drink options. Of course, the other option is always food, like fruit or a milk drink consumed immediately afterwards if you enjoy solid calories.

The range of drink types can be overwhelming. The differences are in carbohydrate level, electrolyte amounts and type, and of course taste. This table compares some of the features and benefits of different drinks.

Generally, people drink more when beverages are cool, flavored and contain sodium (salt). Some fluids should be avoided. Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics and, if drunk more than other fluids, can have a dehydrating effect.

What a recreational runner needs to be aware of is 'how challenging is your run?', and do you really need a 600ml bottle sports drink to refuel?

For example, a moderate-paced run for one hour for a 65kg person might burn around 1000kJ - giver or take. A standard 600ml sports drink contains 600-800kJ. The answer could possibly be yes, IF ...

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