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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.

“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 in a sports drink and what nutrition the popular brands have in it.

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 also aid in recovery.  Let’s review the key components of an efficient sports drink and how some of the popular brands stack up.


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


Sports drinks should contain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride.  Magnesium, a key 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 the level of water and mineral salts in the blood by keeping potassium and magnesium inside the cell.

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

In addition, a full range of complex B vitamins for energy production should be included in the drink as well to address a full range of nutrition needs.

What Are Most of the Popular Sports Drinks Missing?

Of the more popular brands, Powerade contains high-fructose corn syrup as a source of carbohydrates; it lacks electrolytes and any recovery ingredients. Gatorade has no vitamins and contains only sodium and potassium. Both 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.

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

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

The best sports drink should contain all four electrolytes as ingredients and have the proper 3:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. In addition, it should include magnesium 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 of the above nutrients, where do you find it?

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

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

From 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.


Athletes exercising at a mild to moderate intensity and for less than 60 minutes should do just fine with water, especially if reducing the percentage of your body fat is the goal, as added carbohydrates will hinder your 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 of your thoughts turn negative; you are obviously unable to continue to compete.

Feel Yourself Starting to Bonk?

Immediately decrease intensity, start to eat simple carbohydrates, and try to rehydrate – drinking Endura takes care of both of those at once.

Once you bonk, recovery time is increased significantly.

Bonking is actually a way of protecting the body from further damage: if you will not look out for your body properly, it will! Do yourself a favor and don’t let it get to that point.

Proper training, nutrition, hydration, and proper use of Endura will prevent “the bonk.”

The complete article can be found here.