There are a lot of sports nutrition drinks brands out there competing for our attention, and our wallets. It is an ordeal trying to decide which one is best, or at least what is worth buying and what is not. Add to this the bombardment of anything and everything a Google search throws up from brand advertisements to all the stuff on comparison sites, and it is as if you are in a minefield with no clear way out.
What is the best sports nutrition drink, and how can you tell? Clearing the minefield is a challenge, however you look at it. So when navigating your way through consider at least 3 basic things to consider: what you are looking for, what is in it and who makes it.
We had some of the biggest names in UK Football looking at the best drinks on the market, namely Henry, Maradona and Eusebio.
Arguably, the biggest thing to consider is what it is you need from a sports drink. Are you very athletic, do you exercise just moderately or are you more interested in supplementing your nutrition generally? Are you replacing your coffee and chocolate intake with a healthier option? Are you curious with the products coming onto the market and interested in giving them a try, perhaps as a daily supplement? Or, maybe you prefer the flavour and feel-good factor of sports drinks you have tried and are looking for your ideal. Whatever the case, knowing what you would like helps narrow down the field of options, making shopping heaps easier.
There are three types of sports nutrition drinks on the market: isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic. Isotonic drinks are designed to quickly replace the fluids lost by sweating as well as add a carbohydrate boost – i.e., much needed energy. Examples of an isotonic sports drink are Lucozade Sport, Boots Isotonic and HighFive. Hypotonic drinks also replace lost fluids quickly, but without the carb energy boost. Examples of these include Gatorade G2 and Powerade Zero. In fact, generally any water-down or ‘light’ sports drink will fit into this category. Hypertonic drinks are great for supplementing daily carbohydrate intake. It can also be used in conjunction with isotonic drinks to top up fluids lost during exercise. Lucozade Energy is one example.
Most sports drinks on the market are isotonic.
If you are into fitness any of these will work, albeit in their own ways. Isotonic drinks are ideal for the avid gym-goer and athlete, providing the hydration and energy needed to maintain high performance and an optimal work out.
If you are into sports but require less of an energy boost – e.g., gymnastics, yoga and pilates – hypotonic drinks are the tonic for you.
If you are primarily after a supplement, either as a product of a physical workout or an added boost to your daily diet, hypertonic fluids are probably what you want.
And if the feel-good factor is key to your decision making, all products on the market have aspects worth thinking about. Isotonic and hypertonic drinks have a higher glucose content, adding to their flavour and boost in carbohydrates. Hypertonic drinks also have added salts, the idea being that by providing the body with a higher level of sugars and salts than it normally contains it can function at an equally higher level of energy. On the other hand, hypotonic drinks, in offering a no hassle way of replenishing fluids, offers a level of overall level of hydration the body craves, if without the better taste offered by its alternatives.
Looking now to what is in them, sports nutrition drinks are generally straightforward combinations of water, sweeteners, preservatives, carbohydrates and electrolytes (minerals such as chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium). This differs from other supplemental nutrition drinks, like smoothies and protein shakes, which can be based on ingredients such as yogurt, whey and milk to an assortment of fresh fruits, flavours from concentrate, oats, seaweed, vegetables… Basically, near anything. In short, your ideal sports drink will differ little from others on the market for its ingredients, and if you are looking for variety apart from a simple variation of flavour perhaps a supplemental nutrition drink is more up your alley.
Still, another key thing setting sports drinks apart from each is who makes them. Whether it is Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water or Boots’ own brand each product claims to offer something its competitors do not. Unpicking this is a challenge, but not an impossible one.
First of all, what is available where you are, or what can you get a hold of easily. Whether in a shop, online or at the gym how accessible a product is will go a long way to lending itself well to what is best for you.
Another consideration is cost. A number of major brands – including some already mentioned like Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Lucozade and Powerade – have wide distribution and availability in all major retailers in the UK, online, on the high street and in the gym. And all of these major brands have offerings for each type of sports drink. They compete with each other for look, taste and recognisability, and are just as competitively priced. At the upper end of the price spectrum are import brands such as XCEED, Bolero and Gold, all of which are widely available online and specialty retail outlets.
Then, there is professional and popular opinion. In a recent Mail Online article (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3806/The-best-sports-drinks.html), dietician Jeanette Crosland of the Sports Nutrition Foundation gave her verdict in the best sports nutrition drinks products on the market. In no particular order, the list included Liquid Power, Boots Isotonic, HighFive Energy Source, Gatorade, Lucozade Sport and Isostar. US consumer rating site The Top Tens (http://www.thetoptens.com/best-sports-drinks) had a top ten, in descending order, of Propel, Lucozade, Staminade, Accelerade, All Sport, Mizone, SoBe Life Water, Vitamin Water, Powerade and, coming in at No. 1, Gatorade. Both surveys used unique criteria and came from two distinct populations – and there are hundreds more surveys out there looking at what the professionals and the general public think – but Gatorade and Lucozade are noticeable brands that straddle the divide. Are they then the best out there? That is for you to decide, of course, both juries have decided on a brand that is easy to get a hold of, competitively priced and offers a range of products for a range of people.
Ultimately, you can boil down the choice of the best sports drink for you to three simple tips: know why you need (or want) it, take into account what is in it and think about who makes it. Make a decision on these and you are bound to cut through the information overload to get what works for you.