It has been 50 years since the sports drink was introduced to athletes in the United States. The first sports drink, Bengal Punch, was given to athletes at Louisiana State University in 1958. Gatorade, the most recognizable name in sports drinks, debuted the following decade at the University of Florida and revolutionized the way athletes energize and re-hydrate themselves during a sporting event.
Since then, other sports drinks similar to Gatorade have been introduced to the market, including Glaceau Vitamin Water. These drinks are incredibly popular with adult and teen athletes, as well as beverage consumers in general.
The main ingredients that sports drinks contain which enhance athletic performance are electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Athletes can gain many benefits from sports drinks while they are physically active. Among the most important of these aspects are:
Replenishment of Electrolytes
Electrolytes are salts that are naturally part of body fluids. When an athlete (or a gardener or a mail carrier or anyone else who engages in physical activity) sweats, electrolytes are lost through the sweat. If electrolytes are lost too quickly, the body does not have the ability to restore them as rapidly as they were lost. Sports drinks contain electrolytes such as chloride, sodium, and potassium to help replenish what was lost through sweat. Introducing electrolytes back into the body helps keep dehydration from occurring. Dehydration can become a very serious problem if not attended to. Electrolytes help to increase the absorption of fluids into the bloodstream.
A person who is exerting energy can quickly become dehydrated, in as little as 30 minutes. Therefore, it is suggested that athletes begin drinking a sports drink even before they start their activity.
Replenishment of Energy
Anyone who has ever exercised knows that fatigue can occur quickly. One of the reasons for this is that exercise increases metabolism, and when a person's metabolism is working overtime, it breaks down carbohydrates quickly. Carbohydrates are one of the main sources of energy for the body.
By replacing lost carbohydrates, the body can continue to work efficiently and an athlete has more energy to complete their activity.
Replacement of Lost Vitamins and Minerals
The human body also draws energy from various vitamins and minerals only found in certain foods, beverages or supplements. Sports drinks contain these vitamins and minerals to help keep the body working efficiently during activity.
Quenching of Thirst
As the body loses fluids, a person who is exerting energy will become thirsty. The ingredients found in sports drinks can quench thirst as effectively as water and better than soft drinks leaving the person feeling more refreshed and energized.
The Right Balance of Ingredients
In the past, many athletes created their own energy/sports drinks. Some still do. However, a sports drink that has a proper balance of ingredients will be much more effective than a homemade version. Most commercial sports drinks have the correct balance of electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and liquids. Without the right mix of ingredients in the proper amounts, a sports drink could hinder instead of enhance performance. Upset stomach or poor absorption rate of the drink could occur from the wrong balance of ingredients.
A Variety of Color and Flavor Choices
If you think that the color of a sports drink does not make a difference, spend a few minutes at the snack bar at a Little League field. Children, and many adults, find the color choice very important. Color can invoke a mood such as a cool blue color giving the feel of thirst quenching mountain water or a hot red color invoking the image of energy. It may be psychological, but it is still important.
Those who drink sports drinks also have taste preferences, and with the variety of sports drinks offered today, there is a choice for every taste.
They Don't "Run Through" a Body as Quickly as Water
Water may quench thirst, but it doesn't replenish any of the lost electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals that sports drinks can. Although all of these things are lost during sweating, they can also be lost through urination. Water causes more frequent urination than sports drinks do. Therefore, sports drinks not only replenish these important electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals, they also can help the body hold on to the ones they already have for a longer period of time.
The main ingredient in any sports drink is, of course, water. Water is important for re-hydration. The additional ingredients in sports drinks make them a better choice than water alone for athletes and others who exert a lot of energy and need to replenish the essential nutrients that have been quickly depleted in their bodies.
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Craig Elliott is a freelance writer who writes about topics pertaining to the food and beverage industry such as <a href="http://www.coffeeforless.com/category.asp?id=482">Energy Drinks | Red Bull Energy Drink</a>