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Sports drink or water, which is the best choice?

Step by step we return to our natural habitat, the football field. Now whatever we’ve done over the past few weeks, our condition has definitely deteriorated a bit. No more than normal, because we didn’t have to make such a big effort and we didn’t need to do anything. Now that we are going to train more and more (with more effort) and with the warm weather on our doorstep, we figured out for you what is needed to keep your fluid balance at the right level in order to prevent the chance of cramps in muscles. But what’s the best thing and do you still choose a sports drink or water to provide your body with enough energy? Because there are many sports drinks on the market, the many claims of the producers make it difficult to make the right choice. Do you choose a drink that is isotonic, hypotonic or hypertensive? They appear to be marketing terms, but there is a difference.

A mixture of water, salts and sugars

Sports drink is actually no more than a mixture of water, sugars and salts. Or more complicated: carbohydrates and electrolytes. The body needs these substances to perform optimally.

Electrolytes (salts) ensure that moisture is absorbed faster. This creates a thirsty feeling, which makes the user drink more. The body retains the moisture better, so that important substances are not lost through the urine. Carbohydrates (sugars), on the other hand, provide more energy during exercise. It should be noted that an excessively high carbohydrate intake causes the body to retain moisture. Carbohydrates bind with water in the body. For every gram of carbohydrates the body retains 3 grams of water.

What is the use of sports drink or water?

In principle, the body has enough water for an effort of less than an hour. At least, on the condition that enough has been eaten that day. The body has an energy supply when a healthy and varied diet is eaten. This supply can be found in the muscles and the liver. Carbohydrates ensure that this energy supply is built up.

When more than one hour of effort is made, the situation changes. For example during goalkeeping during a football match. When exercising for 1.5 to 3 hours or more it is recommended to take extra carbohydrates. Performance deteriorates after 1.5 to 2 hours because the body has less energy left in the muscles. The result is that the body starts burning fat and/or muscle protein. This process requires more energy from the body which results in a decrease in muscle strength. Because there is not always time to eat a carbohydrate-rich snack and because a full stomach can cause stomach problems, a sports drink with minimal amounts of carbohydrates can therefore be useful.

Different types of sports drinks

Sports drinks can be divided into three categories. This classification is based on the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) and salt per 0.1 litre of drink. When this concentration is equal to the concentration present in the blood, these substances are absorbed faster from the intestine. Read below which sports drink contains this correct concentration.

Hypotonic sports drinks

Hypotonic sports drinks have a composition with less carbohydrates and salt per unit millilitres than our blood. These drinks contain less than 4 grams of carbohydrates per 0.1 litre of drink. A hypotonic drink provides no or only a small amount of carbohydrates and therefore not as much energy. Tap water is an excellent choice as a thirst-quencher for efforts shorter than 1.5 hours. Hypotonic sports drinks therefore have no added value compared to tap water. Except that these drinks cost more money. Think for example of AA drink sports water. This is a marketing trick for which you pay too much. You can suffice with a bottle of tap water. Of course, the intensity of the effort determines whether it makes sense to use a supplement, about which more below.

Some examples: Water, tea, AA drink sports water.
Main function: replenishing water.
When to use: For efforts shorter than 1.5 hours.

Isotonic sports drinks

Isotonic sports drinks have a composition similar to the blood. These drinks contain 4-8 grams of carbohydrates per 0.1 litre. By choosing an isotonic drink, not only the water, but also sodium (salt) and carbohydrates are replenished. The body also loses both during a workout. The body loses sodium through sweating and carbohydrates are burned to release energy. Isotonic sports drinks are the most commonly used sports drinks during long efforts because these sports drinks with sugars quickly enter the bloodstream and thus provide energy. An isotonic sports drink can be used before or during a competition or workout.

Examples: Isostar, AA isotonic, Aquarius, Etixx, homemade sports drinks.
Main function: replenishing fluid.
When to use: When exercising for more than 1.5 hours.

Hypertonic sports drinks

Hypertonic sports drinks have a composition of more carbohydrates and salt per unit in millilitres than in our blood. These drinks contain more than 8 grams of carbohydrates per 0.1 litre. The high amount of carbohydrates ensures that the fluid stays in the stomach longer. Because of this, the body can’t use the fluid and carbohydrates properly during goalkeeping. The high concentration of sugar can cause nausea or gastrointestinal complaints. Moreover, they provide the goalkeeper unnecessarily much energy. For example, a bottle of AA drink of 0.5 liters provides no less than 300 kcal! This is equal to what the body consumes with 30 minutes of soccer. Due to the high amount of carbohydrates present, it is therefore not recommended to drink a hypertonic sports drink before, during or after a training session or match. In order to speed up recovery, a long time (and still) hypertonic sports drink was recommended. It works better to have a carbohydrate-rich meal with water after exercise. This is due to the nutrients and building blocks present in the diet.

Examples: AA drink high energy, Extran energy, Cola, Chocolate milk.
Main function: supplying energy.
When: Not recommended during exercise


So it is important to drink enough fluid before training and competition. As a goalkeeper, you can usually suffice with drinking water, but of course the intensity of the training or match determines whether it makes sense to use a supplement. When exercising for more than 1.5 hours, it can be useful to use an isotonic sports drink to provide the body with energy. After training or competition, a carbohydrate-rich meal with sufficient water will help to replenish the supply. Always prefer a carbohydrate-rich meal to a hypertonic sports drink because of the nutrients and building blocks present. We hope that you now know whether you will fill your water bottle with sports drink or water at the next workout.

About the author : Asmets

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