Why drink a sports drink over water

By: Powerade  06-Dec-2011
Keywords: Exercise, Fuel, Electrolytes

There are many reasons why a sports drink can be more beneficial than drinking water during exercise. Naturally, the primary goal is to limit dehydration, which is known to reduce exercise capacity and potentially increase body temperature. The two main perspectives which differentiate a sports drink from water alone are the additional supply of fuel with the hydration, and the improved absorption of fluid into the body. When either limiting fuel or dehydration reduces exercise performance or capacity, then using a sports drink is likely to be advantageous.

Fuel provision

Carbohydrate is the primary fuel source for muscles which are working at a moderate to high intensity (i.e. at jogging pace or faster), and late in a bout of prolonged endurance exercise1. It is also the preferred fuel source for the brain, with hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose concentrations) having a negative impact on brain and nervous system functioning2. We have a limited capacity to store carbohydrate (glucose or glycogen) in our body, so those who exercise regularly will require additional supplies from their diet to maintain adequate stores. Studies have shown that providing carbohydrate DURING exercise results in better exercise performance in sessions of as little as 1 hour of very high intensity (e.g. cycling time trial3,4); for sessions of intermittent high intensity exercise, such as football and rugby1,2,5 and for more prolonged endurance exercise longer than 90 mins such as long distance running and triathlons1,2,5.

Absorption of fluid into the body

Once fluid is ingested, it must be absorbed from the stomach and small intestine in order to reach the body cells and blood supply. However, it also needs to STAY there in order to be used productively. Adding carbohydrate to a fluid has been shown to assist fluid absorption from the stomach and intestine (provided the concentration of carbohydrate is not too high)2. Sodium (or sodium chloride, commonly known as salt) also helps the body retain fluid more effectively in the cells and tissues, thereby reducing the amount lost in your urine5. This is particularly important for individuals with high sweat rates, who are exercising at high intensity in the heat, or for a prolonged period of time.

Other benefits of a sports drink over water

  1. Several studies have provided evidence that people will drink more of a flavoured drink than an unflavoured one6. Hence, a refreshing, palatable drink such as POWERADE Isotonic will generally be consumed more readily, thereby further enhancing total fluid intake and reducing the risk of dehydration. POWERADE Isotonic has a great range of flavours, all of which make it easier for you to keep drinking the amount you need to stay hydrated.
  2. There is also evidence that consuming a drink with sodium in it stops your thirst mechanism from being switched off prematurely6,7. Although we often look for drinks to "quench our thirst", you also want to use your thirst to tell you whether you still need to drink more (i.e. a signal for hydration levles). A sports drink, such as POWERADE Isotonic, will help enable your thirst receptors to still do the job of telling you how much to drink.
  3. The electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in the drink help to replace those lost in sweat. Sodium is the major salt lost in sweat, as well as being the most critical electrolyte for performance and health1,2,5. Electrolytes play a key role in electrical conductivity around your body, which is important for muscle contraction and the nerve signaling from the brain. Consuming a drink such as POWERADE Isotonic, helps maintain the body's balance of these crucial electrolytes.

Nutritional Information

POWERADE Mountain Blast Isotonic Sports Drink
Servings per package: 1 serving size: 750ml
Average Quantity Per Serving %DI Per 100ml
Energy 998kJ 11 133kJ
239 CAL 11 32 CAL
Protein 0g 0 0g
Fat, Total
- Saturated
0g 0 0g
0g 0 0g
- Sucrose
- Maltodextrin
57 18 7.6g
45g 50 6.0g
12.0g   1.6g
Dietary Fibre 0g 0 0g
Sodium 209mg (9.0mmol) 9 28mg (1.2mmol)
Potassium 106mg (3.0mmol)   14.1mg (0.4mmol)

Contains - Water, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Food Acids (330, 331), Flavour, Tri-Potassium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Tri-Potassium Phosphate, Colour (133).

To help prevent and treat mild dehydration, drink 250mL every 15 minutes during sustained strenuous exercise.

Average Osmolality is 295 milliOsmol/L.


  1. Coyle E.F. 2004. Fluid and fuel intake during exercise. J. Sports Sci. 22: 39-55.
  2. Maughan R. 2006. Fluid and CHO intake during exercise. In: Burke LM and Deakin V. (Eds). Clinical Sports Nutrition, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill: Sydney. pp 385-415.
  3. Jekendrup A., Brouns F., Wagenmakers A.J., Saris W.H. 1997. Carbohydrate-electrolyte feedings improve 1 h time trial cycling performance. Int. J. Sports Med. 18: 125-129.
  4. Below P., Mora-Rodriguez R., Gonzalez-Alonso J., Coyle E. 1995. Fluid and carbohydrate ingestion indpendently improve performance during 1 h of intense exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 27: 200-210.
  5. Sawka M.N., Burke L.M., Eichner E.R., Maughan R.J., Montain S.J., Stachenfeld N.S. 2007. ACSM Position Stand - Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 39: 377-390.
  6. Wilk B., Bar-Or O. 1996. Effect of drink flavour and NaCl on voluntary drinking and hydration in boys exercising in heat. J. Appl. Physiol. 80: 1112-1117.
  7. Wemple R., Morocco T., Mack G. 1997. Influence of sodium replacement on fluid ingestion following exercise-induced dehydration. Int. J. Sport Nutr. 7: 104-116.

Keywords: Dehydration, Electrolytes, Exercise, Fluid Intake, Fuel, Sodium, Sports Drink

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Powerade Isotonic range - Powerade

In 2006 POWERADE launched the POWERADE ISOTONIC formulation of POWERADE sports drinks, which are designed to be in balance with your body's fluids to give you fast hydration and energy when you need it most. For those who train hard and push their body to the limits, sports drinks can be a key component to maintaining performance. Studies undertaken in March 2006 showed that rowers could perform at their peak for longer with POWERADE ISOTONIC.