Sports drinks are a convenient and easy way to ensure optimal hydration and energy levels, before, during and after intense activity. If you're confused by the scientific jargon companies like to throw around, you may struggle to find the right sports drink for your needs.
In this article, we discuss the difference between hypotonic, isotonic and hypertonic drinks, the importance of electrolytes and the benefits of BCAAs. To help give your performance an added boost, we've handpicked 10 of the best sports drinks in the UK from Amazon and Decathlon. Also, we have partnered with Nutritionist Tara Corbett for reviewing and fact-checking the article so that we can deliver the best information to our users.
mybest UK specialist Tara is a nutritionist and energy coach who helps clients lose weight, improve their eating habits, and get their energy back through their nutrition. Tara specialises in helping busy parents specifically improve their eating with ease and without overwhelm, and get back on track so the whole family can benefit.
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Tara is a nutritionist and energy coach who helps clients to lose weight, improve their eating habits, and get their energy back through better nutrition. She specialises in helping busy parents improve their diets without overwhelming them with information, and get them back on track so that the whole family can benefit.
Isotonic sports drinks contain a similar concentration of carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium to those found in the human body. A good all-rounder when it comes to sports hydration. They're readily absorbed and able to replenish stores relatively quickly, which can be useful for short high-intensity exercise.
Hypotonic sports drinks have a lower concentration of carbohydrates, sodium and potassium than the human body. These sports drinks provide the fastest hydration as the lower concentration of electrolytes allows them to be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
These drinks are a good option for those on a calorie-controlled and low carb diet, who still want to optimise their hydration but don't wish to consume excess carbohydrates. Luckily, hypotonic sports drinks are formulated with little to no carbohydrates per serving.
Hypertonic sports drinks are formulated with higher amounts of carbohydrates, minerals and salts to deliver the maximum amount of energy. These are best for recovery after intense exercise when you'll want to replace glycogen levels quickly.
A great choice if you carry out long training sessions regularly, or for refuelling after competing in a sporting event. However, due to the high amount of added calories from carbohydrates, they may be detrimental if you’re trying to get in shape.
Frustratingly, however, for the cost-conscious buyer, varying serving sizes between brands can make it difficult to discern the best value products. A good way to find a budget-friendly option is to compare the cost per serving.
Dietary protein is important for maintaining muscle mass and to support the growth of new muscle after training. That's why protein and amino acids are sometimes added to sports drinks.
There are various types of protein derived from different sources. The most common is whey protein which comes from cows milk. However, there are also vegan options such as pea protein, soy protein and rice protein.
In recovery drinks, branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) such as leucine, isoleucine and valine, as well as other amino acids like L-glutamine are sometimes added. These help ensure a complete amino acid profile and promote the rebuilding of muscle after intense training or an event.
Optimise your workouts with BCAA supplements.
The most common added ingredients are vitamins and minerals. Supplementing sports drinks with certain key vitamins can be beneficial for supporting your body's function.
Vitamin C is thought to support your immune system, reduce tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin B contributes towards energy metabolism and vitamin D is needed to keep bones and muscles healthy.
Some formulations go one step further by adding natural performance-enhancing ingredients. Caffeine is the most commonly used performance enhancer in coffee, tea, and energy drinks. It can be useful for giving you a boost in energy, mental alertness, and performance.
L- carnitine is an amino acid that you cannot get from your diet. It's thought to boost exercise performance by transporting fatty acids into your cells to be used for energy. Green tea extract can promote exercise recovery, metabolism and is a powerful antioxidant.
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A Good Value Energy Blend With Multivitamins and Minerals
Energy Drink Caffeine Hit
Energy and Hydration With a Caffeine Kick
Complete Hydration Powder
A Complete High-Performance Isotonic Sports Drink
A Unique Carbohydrate Blend for Hydration and Energy
KMC ISO Mix
A Refreshing and Effective Fuel to Maximise Your Performance
Science in Sport
Go Electrolyte Energy Drink Powder
An Informed-Sport Accredited Sports Drink That's Vegan and Allergen-Free
Science in Sport
Rego Rapid Recovery Protein Shake
A Full Spectrum Protein-Packed Recovery Drink
A Concentrated Low-Sugar Liquid Sports Drink
Low Calorie and Easy to Dissolve Hypotonic Tablets
5 Electrolytes Sports Drink｜12 pack
A Calorie Free Electrolyte Drink to Rely on for 100% Refreshment
An excellent choice for avid sports enthusiasts, ISO Plus is a cost-effective and versatile isotonic sports drink full of beneficial added ingredients. L-carnitine and L-glutamine, along with a host of multivitamins, are included to support your body's energy metabolism and recovery, while keeping you fueled and hydrated.
This is a no-frills isotonic sports drink that will satisfy almost all users. Available in two sizes, it's excellent value with a high number of servings per container of 86 servings for the 1.5kg bag and 40 servings for the 0.7kg tin. This will make both your athletic performance and money last longer!
Loaded with 140 mg of caffeine per serving, this sports energy drink will give you that extra kick. Perfect for helping you focus and push even further through the hardest training sessions or the toughest events.
A great choice for avid cyclists, this drink contains HIGH5's unique HEAC (High Electrolyte Anti-Cramp) formulation to prevent buildup of lactic acid. Just be careful if you're sensitive to caffeine!
Complete Hydration is a high-performance sports drink, designed to optimize endurance by maintaining energy levels while enhancing the absorption of water during physical exercise.
With added BCAAs and vitamin B6, the handy pouch contains three different types of carbohydrates (maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose) to take advantage of different absorption pathways in the body.
ISO Active is a dual-sourced carbohydrate mix, with a unique 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose which PowerBar calls C2MAX. It contains 5 types of electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) to replenish those lost through sweat.
A popular product that's free from artificial flavours and preservatives. It's perfect for those looking to avoid artificial ingredients while enjoying a refreshing drink that'll help you stay hydrated during training.
Here's a product that ensures you're not compromising on taste, texture or performance, as this top-quality sports drink can be trusted to aid hydration and improve physical performance, thanks to its blend of 4 electrolytes. It's also gluten-free and suitable for vegans.
KMC ISO mix is an excellent product with rave reviews for its fresh fruity mint taste that is refreshing and sweet without all the added sugars of other sports drinks. More so, the mint it contains promotes digestion and clears your airways.
This sports drink is Informed-Sport accredited, so you can rest assured that the highest quality control has been put in place. Vigorously tested by world-class sports laboratories, there are no banned substances in this formulation, giving you peace of mind if you're a competing athlete.
This product is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and free from lactose, gluten, wheat, soya and nuts, which is great news for those with food allergies! What's more, it comes in different flavours including lemon and lime, tropical and blackcurrant, to name a few.
This recovery drink falls between a protein shake and a sports drink, to deliver you the best of both worlds. A fantastic a 2-in-1 product, it's formulated with everything you need to optimize recovery and help you adapt quicker to increasing performance demands.
If you are looking for the best sports drink to help you recuperate after training, then this is the one for you! Just be aware of the higher cost per serving.
Biotech's Multi Hypotonic is a low-carbohydrate sports drink designed to be quickly absorbed for fast energy and hydration. Perfect for use during intense training sessions, its concentrated liquid formula makes it easy to dilute in water.
Ideal for those looking for an alternative to powders and tablets, the only real downside is that the 1000 ml container makes it inconvenient to carry around.
Zero is a convenient, low-calorie hypotonic electrolyte tablet for those with hydration in mind. It comes in a handy tube, so you can throw it in your gym bag without any worries or mess.
Unfortunately, its limited sports application and lack of servings per container, means that it won't be suitable for everybody. While its low carbohydrate and calorie content may be beneficial for those looking to lose weight, its not as effective for perfomance-minded athletes as other types of sports drinks.
Here's another suitable dietary supplement for sports men and women wanting to cut down calorie intake or looking for a sugar-free option. Opting for a drink like this without the extra carbohydrates can help to boost exercise performance and muscle function during selected workouts.
This electrolyte drink provides the 5 main electrolytes which you lose the most through sweat, namely, sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The lemon tonic flavour is also infused with 75 mg of caffeine per serving to improve concentration. Sadly, it comes with a higher price tag.
Sports drinks are designed to help athletes and fitness enthusiasts hydrate before, during and after exercise. They work by replacing electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which are lost through sweat to promote proper hydration. By keeping optimally hydrated, this will enable you to maximise athletic performance and manage fatigue.
Most sports drinks also contain some form of carbohydrates. These are stored in the muscles in the form of glycogen and used by the body as fuel during exercise. Because the body can only store a limited amount, ingesting carbohydrates through sports drinks can replenish glycogen stores to improve overall endurance.
While sports drinks are more beneficial when you are partaking in high-intensity exercise to replenish the electrolytes that you have lost through sweating, water should always be your go-to drink of choice for hydration.
If you are suffering from a mild case of diarrhoea and it isn’t possible to eat something with adequate sodium and potassium content to replace what’s been lost isn’t possible then consuming a sports drink can be a good alternative. If it’s a serious bout of diarrhoea, you should consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment.
Written and researched by Elisha Chung
We partner with specialists across various fields to proof-read our buying guides to deliver accurate and reliable information. Our specialists do not endorse any products that we recommend.
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