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Sportive Tips - Sports Drinks - Isotonic, Hypotonic, Hypertonic

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Published: 14 March 2013
Feature: British Cycling


There are many sports drinks on the market that claim to give you an increase in energy, alertness, or aerobic ability. There is some scientific backing to these claims but you have to have the right drink at the right time to receive these benefits.

To make sure you are getting the correct mixture of nutrients, energy drinks are broken down into three main areas; Hypotonic, Hypertonic and Isotonic. Each of these three drinks will support you in different ways, giving you the rider, the option of tailoring your nutrition for the demands of your event.

Isotonic

Isotonic drinks have a concentration level of around 5-8% (around 5-8grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml of fluid). These drinks can have a positive effect on cycling performance without impacting on fluid absorption, giving some energy but not enough for long or demanding competition durations.

Hypotonic

Hypotonic drinks have a mixture of glucose, salt and electrolytes, making them an ideal drink for hot weather riding and competitions. Usually found with lower carbohydrate levels as isotonic drinks, hypotonic drinks will again supply some energy but will need to be backed up with other sources of energy (gels/bars/snacks) to keep your energy levels up on hot weather demanding long rides.   

Hypertonic

Hypertonic drinks have the highest carbohydrate concentration, usually above 10% of the total coming from carbohydrate sources (10 grams or more per 100ml of fluid), and can be used in the days before an event to load up on carbohydrates or after an event to replenish depleted energy stores. Some athletes take these drinks during ultra events in conjunction with an isotonic drink or water, stopping the potential dehydration effects, as hypotonic drinks use body fluids to digest these types of drinks.

So when training on the British Cycling Sportive Training Plan or entering sportive events in the coming weeks, understand your sports drink and the demands of your event, making sure you stay energized for the road ahead.

A more in-depth review of sports drinks and their benefits can be accessed through your British Cycling membership in the Insight Zone here.

Not using the British Cycling Sportive Training Plans?

Get involved through the member benefits page.

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