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Isotonic, hypotonic, hypertonic drinks: what are the differences?

There are many options for sports drinks. nutritionist, explains when it makes sense to consume isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks.

Today it is possible to find in the market different drinks associated with the practice of physical exercise. The terms isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic refer to the concentration of particles in a given solution compared to blood. Like this:

  • Isotonic drink: drink with the same concentration of sodium as blood
  • Hypotonic drink: it has a lower concentration of sodium than blood
  • Hypertonic drink: has a higher concentration of sodium than blood

Bearing in mind that these drinks (which are also sold in the form of powders or effervescent tablets to be added to water) can contain carbohydrates in varying proportions, the ingestion of sugars and mineral salts outside the specific context of sporting practice rarely makes sense. .

Are isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks energy drinks?

These drinks are not necessarily those advertised as energy drinks or sports drinks. The terms “energetic” or “for athletes” take other factors into account. Energy drinks typically provide stimulating nutrients such as caffeine, for example, while sports drinks may contain ingredients such as amino acids, carbohydrates or electrolytes in varying proportions.

For these distinctions to be clear, it is essential to find the appropriate warnings on the labels. Energy drinks containing a high caffeine content must have this fact identified on the label and are not products intended for children and young people, pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as people with health conditions that require a reduced consumption of caffeine.

All these drinks are labeled according to the same rules as other foodstuffs, which means that they must have a list of ingredients and a nutritional information table. In the list of ingredients, the various compounds are presented in descending order, that is, the ingredient in first place is the one that exists in greater quantity. In the nutritional information table it is possible to check the energy value of the drink or food. This helps us, for example, to get an idea of ​​the calories consumed per portion.

At what time during training can we have these drinks?

Counseling with a nutritionist, knowing the goals of each athlete and their needs depending on the efforts made, helps to implement the most appropriate hydration strategies for each individual.

It is important to mention that drinks with mineral salts are an option when defining hydration strategies, but there may be cases in which they are not necessary, or that have to be combined with other drinks or foods. On the other hand, in addition to their role in rehydration, these drinks can provide energy in the form of carbohydrates (typically, quickly absorbed), so the choice of type of drink, the amount ingested and the moment of ingestion must be considered. adjusted to each athlete and respective effort. The keyword is individualization.

The choice of the most suitable drink for each moment of sports practice depends on factors such as the duration of the effort and the athlete’s perspiration losses. Roughly speaking, during efforts of more than one hour, water intake can be supplemented with a hypotonic or isotonic drink, to replenish the electrolytes lost in perspiration, and which may also contain carbohydrates to provide some energy.

After exertion, there is scientific evidence that rehydration can be accelerated if one and a half liters of hypertonic fluids are ingested for every kilo of body weight lost. Thus, the absorption of water is accelerated.

That said, water remains the main source of hydration. Isotonic drinks are especially useful in the context of more intense or prolonged efforts. Even so, it is common to observe the use of these drinks in situations of dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea – in these cases, their use should be recommended by a qualified health professional, since these drinks were not designed as rehydration solutions oral.

Are there any side effects resulting from its ingestion?

Isotonic drinks are made up of water, a variable amount of carbohydrates and mineral salts. In this sense, a moderate intake is not expected to cause any side effects. Like any sugary drink, its intake must be adjusted to each individual’s energy needs, otherwise it will contribute to excessive calorie intake and consequent weight gain. In sugar-free versions, people with phenylketonuria should observe the presence of aspartame (which indication on the label is mandatory).

Healthy Doctor