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What are sports drinks? Functional ingredients in focus


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Sports drinks are designed to refresh, taste good, and compensate for fluid and nutrient loss during intense physical activity. Here you can read in detail about the opportunities sports drinks offer for beverage manufacturers and which ingredients are relevant for the development of sports and isotonic drinks.

The fact that sports drinks are in line with the zeitgeist and are becoming increasingly popular is clearly shown by international market data.

Sports drinks are designed to compensate for fluid and nutrient loss during intense physical activity. They meet various requirements, including providing energy through carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose or maltodextrin. Since you lose a lot of fluids during intense exercise, they help to compensate for this loss of fluid during and after activity, with water to prevent the risk of dehydration.

Sports drinks also aim to replenish lost electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. The refreshing taste makes it much easier to hydrate. The formulation of hydration and isotonic drinks allows for quick absorption. This is crucial during intense physical activities. In addition, sports drinks are also designed with the aim of maintaining mental support, motivation and focus during training or competition.

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Every athlete has his own tailor-made drink!

However, it should be noted that they are not necessary for every activity, but rather for longer, more intense efforts. Their consumption should be in moderation and appropriate to the desired purpose.

Overall, sports drinks are designed to optimally provide the body with the nutrients it needs to boost athletic performance and promote recovery. However, it is important to consider individual needs and goals in order to choose the right sports drink.

The composition of sports or isotonic drinks can vary depending on when they are taken - before, during sports and after sports. This is done in order to meet the different demands of the body during the following phases:

  1. Sports drinks before exercise (pre-workout sports drinks)
    that are consumed before exercise are often designed to provide the body with sufficient fluids and replenish energy reserves. They usually contain carbohydrates to replenish energy stores (glycogen stores), as well as electrolytes to balance electrolytes and prepare the body for the activity ahead. These drinks can also provide a slight energy boost.

  2. During training (during workout drinks) 
    drinks that are drunk during exercise are usually designed to maintain hydration and energy supply. They contain carbohydrates to meet ongoing energy needs and electrolytes to reduce fluid loss. These drinks are designed to support endurance and performance during activity.

  3. After exercise drinks (post-workout drinks)
    These category of sports drinks are designed to help replenish lost fluids and nutrients and promote recovery. They can also contain carbohydrates to restore energy reserves and electrolytes to support electrolyte balance. Additionally, they may contain proteins to promote muscle recovery and, where appropriate, vitamins and minerals to aid in overall recovery.
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From Purpose to Product: The Best Ingredients for Sports Drinks

So there are plenty of opportunities for product developers to take advantage of what is likely to be an ongoing trend. The following ingredients in particular are used in sports drinks:

  1. Carbohydrates
    One of the main components of sports drinks is carbohydrates. These serve as energy suppliers and provide the body with the necessary strength. Depending on the type of carbohydrates, the energy release is either fast or slow. Fast-release carbohydrates such as glucose (glucose), sucrose (beet sugar) and fructose (fructose), maltose, maltodextrin (short-chain polyglucose) or a combination of these are especially important in short-term, intense activities such as sprinting. On the other hand, slow-release carbohydrates, such as those found in clear-soluble starch from AGRANA or palatinose from BENEO, are better suited for long-term endurance sports such as long-distance running and have the added effect of a low glycemic index.

  2. Salts
    Sports drinks also contain salts that are lost when the body excretes fluid through sweating. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are relevant ingredients as they help maintain electrolyte balance. Potassium contributes to normal muscle function, while magnesium reduces fatigue and supports energy metabolism.

  3. Isotonia
    The isotonicity of sports drinks is another important factor. Isotonic drinks have an osmotic pressure equal to that of the blood, which ensures optimal fluid absorption. They effectively hydrate the body and keep electrolyte concentrations in the blood at a normal level.

  4. Proteins
    Proteins and amino acids are found in some sports drinks to help maintain and increase muscle mass. Whey protein or a vegan alternative such as pea protein are popular sources of protein. Additionally, BCAAs can also be found in sports drinks. BCAAs are made up of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Like all amino acids, BCAAs are building blocks that the body uses to make proteins. BCAAs are considered essential because, unlike non-essential amino acids, the body cannot make them. Legally, EFSA does not have any approved health claims for BCAAs. For proteins, the claim "Proteins contribute to an increase in muscle mass" can be used. *) The claim may only be used for foods that are at least one source of magnesium as defined in the claim set out in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

  5. Vitamins, antioxidants and trace elements
    Vitamins, antioxidants and trace elements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc and selenium are useful supplements in isotonic drinks because they contribute to the normal function of the immune system and help protect cells from oxidative stress caused by intense physical activity. The ingredient betaine can also be important for sports drinks: A study showed that, in contrast to sports drinks without betaine, betaine was able to significantly improve maximum performance – by 3.8 percent.
    Source: “Betaine boosted sports drinks backed to enhance athletic performance: Study”, Nathan Gray, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

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What can Austria Juice contribute to this?
Austria Juice offers a broad portfolio of ready-to-use sports drinks with different flavors such as grapefruit, lemon, mixed berry and with different ingredients depending on your needs. The beverage developers create tailor-made and innovative sports drink concepts for customers based on the profound know-how in this industry.


Sports drinks not only meet the need for refreshment and taste, but they also compensate for the loss of fluids and nutrients due to intense physical activity. Ingredients such as carbohydrates, salts, isotones, proteins and additional nutrients such as betaine or vitamins contribute to this.
The increasing popularity reflects the contemporary demand for effective solutions for athletes. AUSTRIA JUICE offers a wide portfolio of sports drinks and also develops tailor-made and innovative concepts according to customer requirements. With flavours such as grapefruit, lemon and mixed berry, as well as a variety of ingredients, AUSTRIA JUICE is a significant player in the sports drink market, successfully serving all-in-one holistic ingredient solutions for beverage applications.

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