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Should you be lugging a bottle of commercial sports drink to your child's soccer game? What drinks provide the best nutrition for optimal performance? The answers to these questions depend upon how long and how strenuous the exercise is. If you or your child exercise moderately for less than an hour, plain water is the best source of fluids. Water is absorbed more rapidly than any other liquid, but once you begin adding stuff to water, the absorption slows. Drink ahead. Drink a few glasses of water before a game. During the game, drink enough to quench thirst, and after the game drink enough water to quench thirst and then drink at least two more glasses, since thirst is not a reliable indicator of adequate hydration. For high endurance exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes, you will probably need a carbo-lyte-hydration drink (i.e., one containing sugar, salts, and water).
During strenuous exercise lasting more than one hour sports drinks help prevent dehydration, a major cause of muscle fatigue. The main nutritional elements in a commercial or homemade sports drink are water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes (sodium and potassium).
Try these carbo-hydration tips to enhance performance, and therefore enjoyment, of sports.
A useful reference for eating and drinking wisely during exercise is: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Human Kinetics Publishing, 1996.