What is the perfect isotonic sports drink for endurance athletes?

Sports drinks come in many colors, flavors and forms. But their differences don’t stop there! What really distinguishes them most from each other is their level of quality. This level of quality will determine how quickly and effectively it restores energy (sugars), water and electrolytes. Here we sum up briefly, clearly and scientifically what “isotonic” means and what to look for when choosing the perfect isotonic thirst quencher / sports drink.

1. First, make sure your sports drink is isotonic

Isotonic drinks contain similar concentrations of sugar and salt as found in the human body. With an isotonic drink, you can be sure that almost everything you drink will be absorbed. It quickly replaces fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating and supplies energy in the form of carbohydrates.

Difference between Hypertonic, Isotonic and Hypotonic

  • Hypertonic drinks: High concentration of dissolved particles. Avoid these during sports. E.g., Redbull.
  • Isotonic drinks: Ideal concentration of dissolved particles, with osmolarity between 280 and 320 mmol/L. Will contain an average of 4-8 grams of carbohydrates / 100ml and will be absorbed almost completely into the body. E.g., the Pro-Isotonic drink.
  • Hypotonic drinks: Lower concentration of dissolved particles compared to body fluid. Will be absorbed quickly and will carry a limited number of nutrients. E.g., Isostar or Aquarius.

Always look for an isotonic formula of carbohydrate / electrolyte solutions. This type of sports drink will help you push your limits and never let you down.

2. Must contain a mix of fast and slow carbohydrates

A solid isotonic sports drink contains four different carbohydrates. This is important to know as most sports drinks on the market only contain maltodextrin (slow energy) and fructose (fast energy) which only deliver a limited amount of energy.

The four carbohydrates to look for are maltodextrin + sucrose (for slow energy) and endextrose + fructose (for fast energy). This combination is very strong and ensures that you have a perfect isotonic thirst quencher.

The best isotonic sports drink will contain more than 30 grams of carbohydrates, spread over four different types for max energy absorption at the fastest possible rate.

3.Must contain minerals

As minerals (electrolytes such as potassium and phosphorus) are lost through sweat, it is important to replace these minerals to keep the body’s balance of fluids at the proper level. These minerals also help to maintain muscle contraction and blood pressure which means maintaining power and energy. IF this fluid balance is disturbed, it not only means a loss of power and energy but you can also be susceptible to cramping – an athlete’s worst enemy!

  • You sweat more than you think! So, maintaining a stable fluid balance during exercise is a continuous process. If you let your fluid balance drop too much, it can be “game over” as this deficiency cannot be solved simply by drinking a bunch at once.
  • Pay attention to absorb minerals. They both ensure a stable fluid balance. One (fluid balance) cannot exist without the other (minerals). Potassium and Phosphorus are essential in your isotonic sports drink.

4. Must quench your thirst and be pH neutral

  • The neutral pH is proof that there are no added flavorings or acids. As a result, you can be confident that even weak stomachs can tolerate many neutral pH isotonic sports drinks.
  • It should provide a good thirst reflex to ensure that you drink a lot to get enough fluids and minerals during your efforts.
  • It should never be sticky in the mouth – a tell-tale sign of high-quality carbohydrates.
  • Must taste good. An isotonic drink should taste fresh, delicious and go down smoothly. Otherwise, you won’t drink. At Neapharma, we have two Pro-Isotonic flavors: Orange and Tropical.