Interesting facts about sports drinks and what you can drink instead

Hydration before, during, and after exercise is so important, but are you aware of what you need in order to properly rehydrate yourself?

From the moment we wake up in the morning we need to start hydrating ourselves. The best way to start the day is with a glass of water with half a lemon squeezed into it. Not only is this a great way to kick start your hydration and digestion for the day, but lemons are also a great source of vitamin C and electrolytes too!

Sports Drink Alternatives

Photo credit: Lauren Mancke

In order for our cells to be properly hydrated, we need to ensure that we are also consuming electrolytes alongsidewater so that the water can be pulled into the cell. Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge such as potassium, chloride, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. (1)

Commercialised sports drinks, while have an adequate balance of the electrolytes, can also contain artificial colours and flavours and a fair bit of sugar. (2) Red and blue artificial colours for example, have been shown to cause hypersensitivities; be carcinogenic in animal studies; and genotoxicity.(3,4) There have also been studies conducted that demonstrate behavioural differences in children that consume artificial colours compared to those that don’t. (4)

Per 100mL of pre-made, commercial sports drink can contain anywhere between 6-8% of sugar. (2) This means that there is over two teaspoons of added sugar in each commercial sports drink you consume! According the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand and the World Health Organisation, the recommendations are that sugar doesn’t make up more than 10% of your energy requirements per day. (5,6) Meaning, for an adult with a healthy body mass index, this can be up to 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. (5,6) So to put that into perspective, one commercial sports drink is over 16% of your daily recommended intake of added sugar, and you might not have eaten breakfast or lunch yet if you work out in the morning! While sugar can provide quick energy for exercise, drinking sports drinks throughout the day without exercising may negatively impact your blood glucose regulation.(7) Consuming an electrolyte beverage with some protein is the best way to maintain insulin and glucose balance in the body. (7)

Stay Hydrated

Photo credit: Gary Butterfield

Alternatively, you can easily make your own electrolyte-filled drinks for pre, during, and post-exercise. Cucumbers and lemons are rich in all the minerals required for hydration. Simply cut up half a cucumber and quarter a whole lemon, place it in a 2L jug and fill with water. Let it soak overnight or at least for a few hours before you start enjoying your home-made sports beverage.

Sports Drink Alternatives

Photo credit: Yomex Owo


  1. US National Library of Medicine. Medline Plus [Internet]. Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. 2016 [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from:
  2. Sports Dietitians Australia. Sports drinks [Internet]. Sports drinks and performance. 2019 [cited 2019 Nov 4]. Available from:
  3. Kobylewski S, Jacobson MF. Toxicology of food dyes. Int J Occup Environ Health [Internet]. 2012;18(3):220–46. Available from:
  4. Bell B. Food Dyes: Harmless or Harmful? [Internet]. Nutrition. 2017 [cited 2019 Nov 8]. Available from:
  5. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Sugar [Internet]. Nutrition and Fortification. 2019 [cited 2019 Nov 8]. Available from:
  6. World Health Organization. Sugars intake for adults and children [Internet]. Nutrition. 2015 [cited 2019 Nov 8]. Available from:
  7. Qin L, Wang QR, Fang ZL, Wang T, Yu AQ, Zhou YJ, et al. Effects of three commercially available sports drinks on substrate metabolism and subsequent endurance performance in a postprandial state. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017;9(4). Available from:

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IMPORTANT: The information on this website does not replace a face-to-face relationship with your medical professional or healthcare practitioner. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment as a result of any information provided in this website.