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What is the Best Sports Drink? Let’s Answer that with Science.

Many sports drink companies claim to offer the nutrition athletes need to perform well. We examine what athletes need and what sports drinks deliver.

Many sports drink companies claim to offer the nutrition that athletes need to perform well and recover after a long game or strenuous workout. Unfortunately, many of these claims are exaggerated or entirely false. Today, we’ll examine what athletes need for optimal performance and recovery and share what sports drinks deliver this much-needed fuel.

“Performance is about fuel. Longevity is all about recovery.” — Jack LaLanne

Athletes want to know: what is the best drink for getting the nutrition that’s recommended before, during and after exercise?  Dr. Robert Silverman reviewed the literature to find out what is needed for a sports drink to be beneficial. Then, he compared this to the actual nutrition found in many popular brands claiming to be the “best sports drink.”

An extensive review of various literature shows that the “best” sports drink should contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, and numerous other ingredients. Sports drinks should not only fuel activity but aid in recovery.  Let’s review the critical components of an efficient sports drink and how some popular brands stack up.


Carbs are a vital component of nutrition for athletic performance, recovery and health. Generally, 30-60 grams of carbs per hour is recommended for an athletic endeavor. This amount enables athletes to maintain blood glucose levels and reduces dehydration, a critical concern for athletic performance.


Sports drinks should contain electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride.  Magnesium, an essential electrolyte, plays a pivotal role in 300 enzymatic reactions. Bisglycinate has been shown to be the best form of magnesium because it is chelated (bonded) to an amino acid (glycine). Magnesium in the form of bisglycinate ensures increased intestinal absorption of nutrition and prevents diarrhea.

Other Ingredients

Malic acid is a critical addition to a sports drink formulation. It reduces muscle tenderness and assists with soft-tissue recovery.

Taurine is an amino acid that helps regulate water and mineral salts in the blood by keeping potassium and magnesium inside the cell.

L-carnosine, an amino acid, helps fight muscle fatigue in fast-twitch fibers and aids athletic performance.

In addition, to address a full range of nutritional needs, the healthiest sports drink should include a full range of B complex vitamins for energy production.

What Are Most of the Popular Sports Drinks Missing?

A dive into the more popular brands of sports drinks shows numerous inadequacies.

For example, Powerade contains high-fructose corn syrup as a source of carbohydrates, which isn’t as efficient or healthy as alternative forms. It also lacks electrolytes and any ingredients that would aid in recovery.

What about Gatorade? Gatorade has no vitamins and contains only sodium and potassium. These brands rely solely on glucose as a carbohydrate source and lack fructose.

Another popular brand, Vitamin Water, has no sodium or chloride and contains only trace amounts of magnesium. Again, this isn’t enough for athletes hoping to maintain their performance.

Coconut water has very high potassium levels without any sodium content and low magnesium levels. Analysis of coconut water reveals that it primarily contains sucrose as a primary carbohydrate source rather than glucose and fructose in an appropriate ratio of 3:1.

According to the research above, none of these commercial brands provides adequate nutrition to aid athletic performance. Indeed, they may even hinder athletic performance.

The best sports drinks should contain all four electrolytes as ingredients and have the proper 3:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. In addition, magnesium should be included in the bisglycinate form, as well as malic acid, taurine, L-carnosine and complex B vitamins to aid in athletic recovery.

You will not find a commercial drink with all the above nutrients. So, where do you find it?

You’ll find it with a company on the cutting edge of nutrition and sports science.

The product is called Endura, and it is made by Metagenics.

From the Metagenics website:

Endura is a rehydration formula mix with a unique blend of electrolyte minerals that are found in muscle cells.*


  • Delivers key electrolytes to help replace those excreted through sweat during exercise, activity, and/or hot weather conditions*
  • Is designed to provide high concentrations of absorbable magnesium, a mineral essential for cellular energy metabolism *


Serving Size:

1 heaping scoop (35g)


Ingredient Amount Daily Value
Calories 120
Total Carbohydrate 29 g 10%*
Sugars 21 g
Vitamin C 120 mg 200%
Vitamin E 28 IU 93%
Thiamin 2 mg 133%
Riboflavin 5 mg 294%
Niacin 10 mg 50%
Vitamin B6 5 mg 250%
Pantothenic Acid 28 mg 280%
Calcium 60 mg 6%
Phosphorus 69 mg 7%
Magnesium† 174 mg 44%
Chromium 83 mcg 69%
Chloride 148 mg 4%
Sodium 96 mg 4%
Potassium 176 mg 5%
Citric acid 950 mg **
Taurine 500 mg **
Malic Acid 500 mg **
L-Carnosine 20 mg **

Ingredients: Crystalline fructose, maltodextrin, magnesium bis-glycinate†, citric acid, taurine, malic acid, dipotassium phosphate, natural flavors, calcium citrate, sodium chloride, ascorbic acid, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, annatto (color), D-calcium pantothenate, L-carnosine, niacinamide, pyridoxine HCI, riboflavin, chromium citrate, and thiamin mononitrate.

Directions: As a dietary supplement to help maintain adequate hydration, thoroughly mix one heaping scoop (35 grams) with 16 fluid ounces of water. Take on an empty stomach.

This product is non-GMO, gluten free and vegetarian.

Caution: Keep out of the reach of children.

Storage: Keep tightly closed in a cool, dry place.

†Our proprietary fully reacted magnesium amino acid chelate.
Endura® contains no artificial sweeteners.

When Do You Need the Best Sports Drink?

Athletes exercising at a mild to moderate intensity for less than 60 minutes should do just fine with water, especially if their goal is to reduce body fat percentage. Adding carbohydrates will hinder fat-burning and weight loss.

Exercise sessions that are intense, last longer than 60 minutes, or are performed in high heat and humidity, on the other hand, require you to keep nutrition coming in. Endura should be used to replenish energy levels with the proper ratio of carbohydrates and B vitamins, re-hydrate (Endura is a powder that you mix with water) and replenish electrolytes and other amino acids as described above.


Have you ever “bonked?”  Bonked is a term from cycling that can be applied to any sport. Bonking is a severe combination of nutrition errors, including malnutrition, dehydration, poor training and overexertion combined into one.  Your body shuts down, and you suffer from extreme fatigue, dizziness, shaking, mental confusion and all your thoughts turn negative; you are obviously unable to continue to compete.

Feel Yourself Starting to Bonk?

If you feel yourself starting to bonk, there are a few things you can do right away to (hopefully) stop it from getting worse. Immediately decrease intensity, start eating simple carbohydrates and try to rehydrate – drinking Endura takes care of both at once.

Once you bonk, recovery time is increased significantly.

Bonking protects the body from further damage: if you do not look out for your body correctly, it will! Do yourself a favor, and don’t let it get to that point.

Stay Healthy Beyond the Best Sports Drink

Using the best sports drink is an excellent way to stay hydrated and get the nutrients you need to perform your best. But even the best sports drink isn’t enough alone to ensure athletes stay healthy. That’s why many professional and amateur athletes turn to chiropractic care to help them achieve optimal performance.

Sports medicine, a specialized form of chiropractic care, can help prevent and reduce pain from injuries, support flexibility and reach peak physical performance. If you’re looking to maximize your efforts or heal from a sport’s injury, Dr. Galante at Algonquin Chiropractor is here to help! Call us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.