Sports Drinks: Do We Need Them?

Pic: lanier67

Gatorade, Powerade, Isoport…do we need them for volleyball? Sports drinks such as these were made so athletes could basically inject some energy straight into their body ready for uptake by the muscles. They also provide and easy way to get carbohydrate and electrolytes into the body directly after a session for recovery. The question is, with a power sport such as Volleyball, are they necessary? This article will focus on the need for sports drinks DURING a match. For recovery reasons, sports drinks are very efficient but this will be delved into during a later post.

Science of Sports Drinks

Sports drink should generally be composed of 6-8% carbohydrate, containing sodium and potassium to aid rapid delivery of fluid and fuel. Replacement of electrolytes, in particular sodium, is useful for maintaining thirst and will help the uptake of fluid into the body. It is more efficient than water. Sports drinks are rapidly emptied from the stomach, and are absorbed in the small intestine. 6-8% carbohydrate means they do not interfere with hydration goals because the body can still uptake fluid with this percentage.

• Promote better fluid intake than water (more appealing and tastier)
• Increase retention of fluid post exercise (sodium)
• Provide additional source of fuel

• Over consumption, high-energy drinks may create energy balance problems, leading to weight gain.
• Teeth erosion

Do we need to use Sports Drinks?

Research suggests that this kind of carbohydrate replacement during exercise may be beneficial to performance during events of high intensity and of about 1 hour in duration.

The AIS fact sheet suggests that water is a suitable fluid for Volleyball, however a sports drink may promote better performance by giving the athlete fuel stores for both the muscles and the brain. Dehydration and low blood glucose lead to poor concentration and decision-making. Two things every Volleyballer needs in abundance during training and games. They also report that a sports drink may encourage the athlete to drink more. They conducted a study and found that even though many athletes reported preferring water to sports drinks, when offered a sports drink, both men and women drank more fluid.

It is very common to think you are properly hydrated when in reality; you are nowhere near it. The presence of sodium in sports drinks is vital in that it keeps your body thirsty for more. Although we think we may be taking in enough fluid, water tends to shut off your thirst mechanism before you are actually rehydrated. Sodium is also very important to aid the uptake of fluid into the body, and replacing lost electrolytes through sweat.


A common theme I hear when asking Volleyballers about sports drink usage is that it’s not necessary. I disagree. Although I think sports drinks aren’t as necessary in Volleyball as some ultra endurance sports, at a high level, Volleyball is quite intense and you will lose more fluid and electrolytes than you think, and burn quite a bit of energy.

Good nutrition throughout the day will generally set you in good stead to have enough energy stores to make it through the game. In a longer game, blood glucose may be dropping low and a sports drink is simply the easy way to get that into your muscles ASAP. Hydration is a different issue. Water is great, but it’s very easy to head to a timeout and not drink enough water. The lack of sodium in water means that your thirst mechanism is being shut off before you are fully hydrated and it’s not being taken up into the body as efficiently. As mentioned above, dehydration will affect your performance on the Volleyball court.

The best way to check out if you are drinking enough is to simply measure before and after. If you have a large drop in weight, then you are probably not sufficiently hydrated. Experiment a little during training, drinking sports drinks and water and see if this number gets lower.

Personally, I will drink a bottle of sports drink during the warm up of the match, and have one on hand to sip through out the game whilst still drinking water. I’m a terrible drinker during matches and to have something tasty to guzzle down definitely does promote fluid intake.

Everyone is different, however during games, you have nothing to lose by drinking some sports drink with your water.

Anyway, we are certain its a better strategy than this one….(click here if you still use IE and it doesn’t work)