Hydration is crucial to physical performance. As little as a 2% loss in body mass from sweating can lead to significant decrements in performance. So choosing a solution that will adequately hydrate you is extremely important. However, not all hydration drinks are created equally. Before you chug a liter of your usual sports hydration drink, take a peek at the nutrition label and compare it to the ingredients and their definitions below.
What are the positive things to watch for in your drink?
- Drinks that contain sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium, hopefully in a citrate form.
- If sweetened, look for glucose, dextrose (which is a form of glucose, usually processed from corn starch), cane sugar (be careful here if you’re vegan as many cane sugars are filtered with bone char, which is essentially charcoal made from animal bones), or no sweeteners at all.
- The additions of B vitamins are generally helpful as well.
There are many ingredients you’ll want to avoid.
- Preservatives. These typically are sodium benzoate, monopotassium phosphate, nitrate/nitrite, and minerals in sulfate/sulfite or carbonate forms. While these forms can provide some of the minerals needed for electrolyte re-balancing, they are typically cheaper and less effective forms. Ascorbic/citric acids are also preservatives.
- Natural Flavors. Natural flavors mean that their original form is a natural product, which can be anything from bugs to animal secretions (seriously), to the more usual fruits/veggies/plants/etc. If you’re vegan, you may want to stay away from products containing natural flavors, due to the high likeliness that animals are involved in the processing of the flavor.
- Artificial sweeteners. Typical artificial sweeteners are sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, glycerol/glycerin, isomalt), saccharin (Sweet and Low), sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin), acesulfame K (Ace-K, Sunett, Sweet One, Neotame).
- Fillers and additives. These are ingredients that are not necessary, but either act to balance out formulas, insure product presentation or give the product a boost, such as “fizz” additives like ascorbic/citric acid and sodium carbonate, as well as polyethylene glycol, a laxative to counter other products which may create GI problems. You may find stabilizers or emulsifiers that make sure that the product doesn’t separate such as gums (gum Arabic, acetate isobutyrate, glycerol ester of rosin).
For our members we’ve done the research making sure our hydration products fit the criteria outlined above. Brands like Skracth, Osmo, and Nuun pack in electrolytes and other essentials to keep you hydrated and fueled while minimizing the inclusion of preservatives, flavorings, and other fillers.