The Benefits of Sports Drinks: Are They Needed or Not?


The Benefits of Sports Drinks: Are They Needed or Not?

By Dawn Weatherwax

(From the August Issue of Swimming World Magazine)

The sport drink got its start in the 1960s by Dr. Robert Cade. He wanted to create a beverage that would help the Florida Gators football team minimize sluggishness in the heat! Along came Gatorade. Since that moment, the sports drink industry has become a billion dollar business with many more brands entering the market.


Sports drinks are largely comprised of carbohydrates, electrolytes and water. The amounts and types of each are what have differed over the years.


Sports drinks should be considered if the activity takes longer then 45-60 minutes. It takes 30-45 minutes for the carbohydrates to get into the muscle for energy. Sodium is the main electrolyte that impacts hydration status and helps get the water into the cell.


There are many factors to consider if a sports drink would be of benefit. The main ones are length, duration, intensity, temperature and the amount one sweats. Usually, endurance sports are where most sports drinks are considered, but they can also be useful if someone struggles eating before movement or maximizing fuel and hydration during activity.


There are many out there. Here are some options to choose from:
• Gatorade®/Gatorade® Organic: Very accessible
• Greater Than®: Uses coconut water as its base and has adequate amounts of sodium
• Infinit: Can customize your own blend
• Liquid IV®: Found in grocery stores
• Precision™ Hydration: Can get your own fueling plan
• Skratch Labs®: Good for sensitive stomachs
• Tailwind®: Found in most running stores


Sports drinks do have a purpose in sports. They provide quicker-absorbed fuel for the muscles within 45 minutes of ingesting along with important electrolytes, especially sodium. They also help keep the athlete hydrated. When and how often is dependent on many factors, and varies per athlete and situation. Sports drinks are not mandatory, but they can definitely help at appropriate times.

* * *

This article and the following sample training menu is educational only and should not be used in place of medical advice:


Pre-Training (4:30-5:15 a.m.)
1 pkt Kodiak or Kashi oatmeal
2T Chia seeds
1/2 cup Unsweetened applesauce or puréed peaches
16 oz Water
(Might add 1 table Nuun or Precision Hydration electrolyte tablet)

Training (5:30-6:45 a.m.)
4-16 oz Water an hour (amount needed depends on sweat rate)
(Might add 1 tablet Nuun or Precision Hydration electrolyte tablet per 16 oz)

Breakfast (6-7:30 a.m.)
MUST HAVE WITHIN 30-45 minutes after training
Breakfast pizza (hot or cold)
1 Dave’s Killer English Muffin
3 oz Canadian bacon
2 T Organic pizza sauce
1 Laughing Cow lite cheese
1/2 cup Veggies of choice (tomato, spinach)
1 Mango
16 oz Water or hibiscus tea
1 Multivitamin/mineral, fish oil and vitamin D3

Lunch (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
1 Pita or 1-2 oz pita chips
3 oz Shredded chicken (seasoned with Dijon mustard, pepper and minced celery)
1/2 Avocado
2 T Dried cranberries
2 cups Mixed greens
1 cup Baby carrots
1 cup Red grapes
2 Dill pickles
16 oz Water infused with cranberry and mint


Afternoon Snack (2-3:30 p.m.)
1-2 Oz Trailmix (1/4-1/2 cup non-GMO soy nuts, 1/4 cup salted seeds or nuts and 1/4 cup dried berries
16 oz Water

Training (3:30-5:30 p.m.)
4-16 oz Water an hour with one NUUN tablet (optional tablet) per 16 oz or Infinit customized blend

Post-recovery within 30-45 min: 1 Rise Bar
(If you can have dinner within that time, then this snack is optional)

Evening Meal (6-7 p.m.)
3-6 oz Shrimp
1-2 cups Snow peas and broccoli with any seasonings
1 T Olive oil or non-GMO canola oil
1 cup Jasmine rice
16 oz Water
1 Multivitamin/mineral, fish oil

Evening Snack (8-10 p.m.)
1-2 Kodiak blueberry muffins with ground flax seed added to recipe
8-16 oz Horizon soy, oat or nut milk
Water with optional electrolyte tablet

Dawn Weatherwax (RD, CSSD, LD, ATC, CSCS) is a registered/licensed dietitian with a specialty in sports nutrition and founder of Sports Nutrition 2Go and Dawn Weatherwax Sports Nutrition Academy. She has been working with swimmers for over 25 years and has launched an online nutrition program for swimmers at She is also a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, which is the premier professional sports nutrition credential in the United States. In addition, she is an athletic trainer with a certification in strength and conditioning from The National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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Bill Price
3 days ago

A good electrolyte replacement is a simple 50/50 blend of Coke and water.

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