You check a cycling catalog and find half a dozen brands of sports drink. Same thing when you visit a nearby bike shop or nutrition store. It’s a bewildering assortment that isn’t helped by the various performance claims of the manufacturers. Which drink should you choose?
Marketing people would blanch at this answer but I think most sports drinks work about the same. Most have similar amounts of carbohydrate supplying about the same number of calories and potential energy. The other key ingredient is sodium to replace what’s lost as perspiration. You can always add a pinch of table salt if you sweat heavily.
Go With What Works for You
Find favorable flavors. The key is finding a drink you like to drink. Don’t force yourself to use a sports drink that tastes bad simply because you’re hooked by the marketing hype. (And make no mistake, some of the flavors out there would gag a maggot.)
The problem is easy to see: If you don’t enjoy the drink, you won’t drink enough. No matter how scientifically formulated the stuff might be, it won’t do you much good if you can’t swallow enough of it. My advice is to find a couple of drinks that taste good to you — and buy the one that’s on sale!
Be flexible. If you tour or do long, unsupported day rides, get accustomed to commonly available drinks such as Gatorade and PowerAde. When you stop at a convenience store, you’ll likely be limited to 1 or 2 choices, so your system needs to run efficiently on them. If you feel you can function well only on some exotic brand, you’ll be in trouble if you run dry while riding through Pea Green, Colorado.
This doesn’t necessarily apply, of course, if you carry your own powder to mix. Then you only need a water source. But you may end up paying almost as much for bottled water at a store as you would for a bottle of sports drink!
The same thinking applies to events when the organizers supply drinks at aid stations. If their choice doesn’t agree with you, it could be a long day. For important events, find out what’s being offered. Try it in advance so your system adjusts, or carry your own drink in powder form and mix it with water at rest stops.
Just a note to newbies: if drinking Gatorade, go with the powder found in most supermarkets. It is so much cheaper than buying the bottled stuff! And large canisters are even cheaper, though the scoop is industrial stile!
Kerry Irons says
Back in the day I tried many “sports drinks” both in bottled and powder form. They all worked, and they all worked about the same. But there were three problems with the whole idea. First was “sticky bike.” Maybe it was just me but I always came back from a long ride with a bike needing a rinse. Second was that my salt requirements varied widely with the weather; hot, humid rides meant lots of sweating and therefore the need for lots of salt intake. Cool, dry weather rides meant not nearly so high a salt need. Third was that my caloric needs depended only on the ride distance and ride intensity, not on my hydration or salt needs. Therefore I couldn’t depend on sports drinks to fit my actual needs. The solution? Drink water and get your calories and salt independent of what is in your water bottle. Plus you have water to wash your hands after fixing a flat or clean up road rash. I carry fig bars, cookies, and salted mixed nuts on rides over 40 miles. I can salt my food in anticipation of the needs of the ride and enjoy something good to eat instead of choking down some questionable tasting drink. Water is universally available and often free.
After trying many options when I started riding over 30 years ago, I finally decided Skratch Labs Sport Hydration was the best choice for me. I prefer the orange flavor.
I notice I always drank more after choosing this product and NEVER have any stomach issues.
Andrea M. says
I’m looking for all liquid fueling for all-day (and sometime night) rides.
Why all liquid?
Because I am doing Invisalign treatment, I don’t want to stop to eat real food. Eating requires taking out the plastic braces and then a full mouth and braces cleaning before putting them back in.