Isotonic Drinks: Benefits, How they Work, and More

Isotonic Drinks: Benefits, How they Work, and More

If you are an athlete or indulge in physical activities or gymming, you must be aware of dizziness, blackout and light-headedness. This can result from dehydration common if you practice sports, especially in hot and humid countries like India and nearby countries - a little secret: Isotonic drinks can be your saviour. Dehydration occurs when the body loses critical water and salts through sweating, dramatically affecting an athlete's performance. Even the mildest of dehydration can create the difference between gold and silver medals. Dehydration can seriously impact vital organs like the kidneys, brain, and heart, which rely on enough water and salt levels to function well, which is why isotonic drinks originated for athletes - they help in rehydration and work as a blessing. 

Isotonic Drinks: Meaning and Origin 

Sports drinks are of three types: isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic, depending on the quantity of carbohydrates and electrolytes. Isotonic drinks have six to eight percent carbohydrates, including glucose and electrolytes. Isotonic drinks swiftly rehydrate the body and replenish important minerals and fluids lost during physical activity, sweating, or exercise. These drinks often contain a well-balanced blend of water, carbohydrates such as glucose or sucrose, and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium in quantities similar to those found in the human body. An isotonic drink quickly replaces fluids and nutrients, assisting in hydration, energy restoration, and electrolyte balance during or after intensive exercises or sports.

Research published by Research Gate states that at the beginning of the 1960s, a formula of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water was formulated at the University of Florida to increase the performance of a group of American football players and to counteract dehydration caused by excessive physical exertion. Since then, many brands formulated isotonic drinks to promote rehydration among competing athletes who indulge in strenuous activities for an hour or more. 

Commercial sports drinks contain preservatives, colourings, artificial sweeteners, flavourings, and ingredients targeted at improving taste and extending shelf life. However, concerns have been expressed concerning their potentially harmful impact on consumer health.

If you are looking for  some premium isotonic drinks, trusting India’s premium sports nutrition and wellness brand, Steadfast Nutrition can be a wise decision. Their isotonic formulation SNERGY consists of Dextrose Monohydrate, Sucrose, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Taurine, Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, and Cyanocobalamin.

How do Isotonic Drinks Work in the Body?

In simple words, isotonic drinks are absorbed faster by your body than water. They not only rapidly satisfy thirst but also serve as an excellent fix for nutrients lost in the body during endurance sports

An isotonic liquid contains osmotically active particles in the same concentration as the fluids already present in our body. An isotonic liquid, for example, should match the osmotic particle concentration of blood. Substances can still migrate passively in this environment, although at a significantly slower rate than in hypotonic water. The formulation of isotonic drinks includes carbohydrates, electrolytes, and vitamins, which help maintain osmotic pressure. 

Moreover, isotonic drinks play a vital role in processes like: 

Gastric emptying:

It is critical that any sports drink is entirely absorbed  by the small intestine. Isotonic drinks are specifically formulated to improve these processes in order to ensure their effectiveness.

Intestinal absorption: 

The components of a drink are absorbed in the small intestine. Water absorption occurs passively via osmotic action and is intimately related to active solute transport. When salt and carbohydrates are present in the swallowed fluid, active transport mechanisms kick in, increasing water absorption. As a result, solute absorption is facilitated by a phenomenon known as solvent drag.

When and How to Have Isotonic Drinks

Professionals frequently recommend isotonic drinks for athletes due to their balanced composition of fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, perfect for hydration and energy during intensive workouts. SNERGY by Steadfast Nutrition is one such isotonic drink that provides instant energy and can be consumed before, during, or after workout sessions, offering a quick energy boost without being constrained by time, which helps the body meet various needs resulting from physical activity.

Mix a 45 g sachet of SNERGY with 500 ml water. Consume 1-2 servings daily as directed.

Benefits of Isotonic Drinks

Isotonic drinks mimic the body's natural salt and sugar levels, often containing 6% to 9% carbohydrates. These sports drinks quickly replenish fluids lost through perspiration and provide a carbohydrate boost. Most athletes participating in medium to long-distance running, cycling or team sports opt for these beverages. Along with rehydration, other benefits of isotonic drinks include: 

Rapid Hydration:

They quickly replenish fluids lost during activity or sweating, assisting in rapid rehydration.

Energy Boost:

Carbohydrates are commonly included in isotonic drinks, giving a quick supply of energy during physical exercise.

Electrolyte Replacement:

Isotonic drinks help restore electrolyte balance by replacing important minerals lost via sweating, such as salt and potassium.

Improved Performance:

Isotonic drinks can improve endurance and athletic performance by maintaining hydration and energy levels, especially during extended or strenuous exercises.

Fast absorption:

The balanced composition of isotonic drinks enables faster fluid and nutrient absorption when compared to plain water, assisting in efficient rehydration.

Prevents muscle damage:

A 2016 research paper published at NCBI states that isotonic drinks may benefit athletes by preventing muscle injury and increasing muscle cell stability by preserving the body's fluids and electrolyte balance. Moreover, the research indicated that drinking an isotonic drink before a competition has a protective effect, minimising muscle damage during these activities.

Why do Athletes Consume Isotonic drinks for Hydration?

Sports drinks provide a palatable and effective way to rehydrate and restore electrolytes, carbohydrates, and other nutrients lost or used during physical activity or competition. The level of hydration in an athlete's body during sporting activity is an important health indicator that can significantly impact performance. Dehydration significantly lowers athletic performance and might potentially pose health problems. Similarly, various nutrients help athletes during physical exercise and recovery. 

You must be thinking: Why can’t athletes just drink water for rehydration?’ Well, water is the ideal beverage during and between meals because it is calorie-free and widely available, but not when indulging in activities that lead to salt loss, which is why isotonic drinks may benefit those participating in vigorous exercise lasting more than an hour. If they are sweating profusely, it is recommended that they take an isotonic drink. It is also advisable to not skip water since both are different and imperative for the body. 

Choose an isotonic drink like Steadfast Nutrition’s SNERGY, containing multi-source carbohydrates which give instant energy, taurine, which reduces oxidative stress, and inositol, which boosts mood and reduces stress. Energy can increase the intensity and duration of your workout or sporting activity while keeping you hydrated.

Risks Associated with Over-Consumption of Isotonic Drinks

Over-consuming isotonic liquids poses dangers. Isotonic drinks, which frequently contain carbohydrates, might lead to increased calorie intake, which may be troublesome for those trying to lose weight or limit their sugar intake. As per a research paper by Harvard, consumption of high-sugar drinks, regardless of kind, has been linked to weight gain and increased susceptibility to illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and gout.

Furthermore, excessive intake of isotonic drinks can upset the body's electrolyte balance, potentially leading to health difficulties such as high blood pressure or kidney problems. 

The acidic nature of some isotonic drinks, caused by added sugars, can also endanger oral health by producing erosion or cavities. Recent research published at Research Gate suggests a link between energy drink consumption among young people and a variety of harmful health outcomes, including risk-taking behaviours, compromised mental health, negative effects on the cardiovascular system, and potential metabolic, renal, and dental issues.

Over-hydration is another issue to be concerned about - excessive intake of water, especially when combined with regular water consumption, can lead to hyponatremia, a condition characterised by low sodium levels. Furthermore, artificial ingredients or preservatives in some isotonic drinks may cause severe reactions in some people. 

In a nutshell, when introducing isotonic drinks into one's routine, moderation and careful consideration of individual health needs are essential and shouldn’t be overlooked. It is recommended to use isotonic drinks and other sports drinks under the guidance of trainers, coaches, nutritionists or general practitioners. 

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