Which Is Better – Water or Sports Drinks?

Nowadays it has become a trend for athletes to be sipping on brightly colored sports drinks. Be it before, after, or even during a competition, sports drinks have become commonplace in the world of sports and they seemed to have replaced water. Not just professional athletes, but common people who indulge in exercising and sports now and then are opting for sports drinks over water. Due to this, sports drinks have become a huge business around the world. Many sports people, thus, believe that sports drinks are the ‘magic elixir’ that helps people improve their performance, even if you are not professional athletes. However, have we forgotten the benefits provided by simple good old water over these sports drinks? We all know that water is the one beverage that keeps us hydrated throughout the day and the importance of water cannot be denied. So, which one is better for athletes? Water or sports drinks? Let us find out.

Which Is Better - Water or Sports Drinks?

What are Sports Drinks?

Before we decide which is the better option between water and sports drink, we need to understand what exactly are sports drinks and what are they made up of. Sports drinks are beverages that are specially produced to help people rehydrate themselves during or after an exercising session. Sports drinks are known to be rich in carbohydrates, which are known to be the most efficient source of energy not just for athletes, but for everyone in general. Carbs are also important in maintaining the performance in exercise and sports. Apart from carbohydrates, sports drinks also contain preservatives and sweeteners. Sports drinks are also known to contain electrolytes, which are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. After a session of exercise, your body requires a replenishment of electrolytes because as you sweat, you lose electrolytes along with it. Replacing the lost electrolytes during training is said to boost rehydration, which delays the onset of fatigue during a match or even during exercise.

Importance of Water

It is common knowledge that the majority of our body weight is made up of water and water is most important for proper functioning of our body. Our body is continuously losing water during the day. Apart from the water lost through urine, feces, or sweat; water is also lost through the air we exhale and through our skin. This is why it is necessary to keep drinking water throughout the day. Water lost during the day needs to be replenished as it promotes good health and also boosts the body’s performance during sports or exercises. It is recommended that the daily fluid intake for an adult woman should be around 2.7 liters, while for an adult man it should be 3.7 liters.

What are Sports Drinks Made Up Of and How Effective Are They?

Water remains the major ingredient in sports drinks, but they are also composed of other substances such as carbs and electrolytes, as mentioned above, for improving performance.

Carbohydrates present in sports drinks are in the form of glucose, fructose, or sucrose. They may be found in some other form as well. Generally, sports drinks contain 5-8% carbohydrates. So for example, a 6% solution will have approximately 14 grams of carbohydrates for every 8 ounces (240 ml) of fluid. These days, though, there are many sports drinks that are low in carb content or even have zero-carbs in them to appeal to individuals who are looking to consume water and electrolytes, but do not want the extra calories that come along with most sports drinks. The appeal of sports drinks for athletes lie in the presence of electrolytes that are found in these beverages.

Electrolytes are minerals that have an electrical charge and are required for the body’s normal performance. Popular brands of sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium. While there are many different brands of sports drinks available on the market, there is not much of a difference between the effectiveness of these sports drinks. However, many people continue to question the effectiveness of sports drinks.

While there has been some research done on the effectiveness on sports drinks, there need to be more specific studies that are required to firmly establish the effectiveness of sports drinks. Furthermore, there are concerns about the validity of these studies as people question the relationship between large multinationals that manufacture sports drinks and the scientist that are undertaking these studies.

Do Sports Drinks Really Benefit Athletes Than Regular Water?

While we know that sports drinks contain electrolytes and carbs for an energy boost, do they really have any additional benefits for athletes that plain water cannot provide? The answer is YES, sports drinks are a better choice for ATHLETES. This is because the major components in sports drink include carbs, electrolytes, and of course water, which are crucial for the optimum performance of your body during exercise or sports. Sports drinks help in replenishing the water and electrolytes your body loses during exercising. The carbs found in the sports drinks are stored in your muscles and liver and are known as glycogen. Glycogen is utilized by the body as fuel during exercise. When you consume sports drinks during or before an exercising session, it slows down the process of how quickly your body uses up its own reserves of carbohydrates. Some sports drinks also have amino acids present in them, which are known to enhance the recovery of muscles following strenuous exercises.

Studies conducted on the effectiveness of sports drinks have typically been conducted on athletes and have found that sports drinks provide the crucial ingredients that the body requires to improve performance and recovery during exercise and sports. So yes, sports drinks are a better option than water for people who perform vigorous exercises, such as athletes and sports people.

When & Who Should Have Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks containing electrolytes are seen as the perfect beverage to quench your thirst when working out. However, the fact is that there is a very limited group of people who should be consuming sports drinks. According to the recommendation of doctors and experts, adults and children should be having sports drink only during heavy and extended periods of exercise that lasts well over an hour. Otherwise, water should be the beverage of choice for hydration for before, during, as well as after exercise routines that last for less than an hour.


Sports drinks have become very popular amongst professional athletes as well as exercises, but whether or not they are better than water is still a heavily debated point. While research so far supports the benefits of sports drinks for athletes and those undertaking strenuous or long exercising sessions, more studies are still required to firmly establish whether sports drinks are better than water or not for other people. The bottom line remains that even most active people do not participate in such intense exercises that they would need to drink sports drinks.

We can conclude that drinking water for remaining hydrated is the better option for most people in the general population. Furthermore, apart from water as well there are many beverages available that can provide hydration for the body and be just as effective as sports drinks. However, the benefits of sports drinks for athletes cannot be denied and should be consumed after consulting a doctor or medical professional by regular people.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 4, 2019

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