When you’re in need of some fast fuel before or during a tough training session there’s no better source of energy than a sports drink. The carbs and electrolytes they contain will hit your system quickly to replenish your body’s reserves so you can keep on keeping on, and it’s generally more enjoyable to gulp down a sports drink than to take a gloopy energy gel during training.
You need to be a little wary of using sports drinks willy-nilly, however. They’re designed to provide a lot of energy, so the carb and sugar count is high. If you’re only going out for a 30-minute easy run you probably don’t need that kind of energy hit, especially if you’re running as part of a bid to lose weight.
Along with carbs, a good sports drink will also contain electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat during a workout. This is especially important during sessions that last more than 90 minutes, when just rehydrating with water won’t get the job done.
You can obviously buy sports drinks like Lucozade ready-made, but picking up a powder to mix with water yourself is often more portable, especially if it’s a single-serve sachet you can take with you to mix up just before a workout.
Torq Energy Drink
We always appreciate it when a brand works in round numbers, because it helps when working out how to reach a macro target. Each 500ml serving of Torq’s powder provides 30g of carbs, 10g of which are sugars, and 120 calories, in a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin (glucose) to fructose that allows you to absorb as many carbs per hour as possible. There are also five electrolytes thrown into the mix to help replace those you’ll lose in sweat during hard training. The range of flavours includes all the usual fruity options as well as an unflavoured powder; but our favourite is the delightfully sharp Pink Grapefruit, which makes a welcome change to the predominantly very sweet sports products.
Buy from Torq | £27.99 for 1.5kg
Bulk Powders Complete Hydration
Each 40g serving of this drink contains over 35g of carbs, from mixed sources to improve uptake, and it also contains a range of electrolytes including sodium to ensure you’re well hydrated for your workout. It’s also a great-value powder, working out to 55p per serving, and both the flavours available – mixed berry and orange – are pretty tasty. It’s one to stock up on ahead of a busy training plan, while perhaps saving more carb-rich options like Maurten’s mix or SIS’s Beta Fuel for one or two key training sessions and race day.
Buy from Bulk Powders | £11.99 for 500g
It’s sold everywhere, usually available in some kind of deal, and comes in a range of tasty flavours, so if you’re in need of a sports drink at short notice there’s nothing better than a trusty bottle of Lucozade Sport. There are 32g of carbs in each 500ml bottle, with 18g of sugars, plus sodium to top up your reserves after a sweaty session. You’ll be glugging down 130-140 calories depending on the flavour, of which raspberry is the best. No need to debate us on that.
Buy from Lucozade | £10.99 for 12 bottles
Veloforte Electrolyte Powders
These folks lose a little credit for championing the use of Himalayan pink salt in the electrolyte powders, since it has no real benefits compared with standard salt, but that credit is clawed back by an impressively unusual range of refreshing flavours for its drink mixes – Wild Strawberry and Basil being the tastiest in our book. Each of the trio offers different sporting benefits: Attivo, which is the Wild Strawberry and Basil flavour, contains electrolytes, 22g of carbohydrates and 75mg of caffeine, while Vivo (Peach, Raspberry and Rosehip) packs in electrolytes and carbs, and Solo (Golden Apricot and Sage) is just electrolytes. All the sachets are small enough to slip into a running belt so you can make your drinks on the move.
Buy from Veloforte | £5.25 for mixed pack of three sachets
One Pro Hydro Energy Drink Mix
Each sachet of this drink mix contains around 32g of carbs, with a low-GI source used alongside the standard maltodextrin to supply both slow- and fast-release carbs. A whole load of vitamins and minerals have also been thrown into the mix, and coconut water extract is used to provide electrolytes. The mix is designed to be as natural as possible, with no artificial sweeteners or polyols used. We’re not against artificial sweeteners, but they do sometimes pose a problem by increasing the risk of stomach problems on the run. The mix comes in two flavours – pineapple and coconut, and berry, with the latter also containing caffeine.
Buy from One Pro | £25 for ten sachets
Maurten Drink Mix
Olympic champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge’s sports drink of choice works just as well for anyone not gunning for a sub-2hr 2min time. The Maurten drink mix forms a hydrogel when it hits the stomach, so it’s absorbed more slowly by the body to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal distress. This also allows Maurten to shove a huge amount of carbs into each drink – the 320 drink mix contains 80g per sachet, which you mix into a 500ml drink, and the 160 contains 40g. There’s no real flavour to the mix, it’s just mildly sweet, and we can say from experience that it does the job – we’ve used Maurten’s drink mix before and during our last two marathons. It is expensive, though, so save it for your most important workouts and races.
Buy Drink Mix 320 from Sigma Sports | £43 for 14 sachets
SiS Beta Fuel
It’s probably unfair to say this mix is supplement behemoth SiS’s answer to upstart Maurten’s product, but Beta Fuel also comes in black sachets in a box and contains 80g of carbs, so we’re going to go ahead and say that anyway. The Beta Fuel powder provides its carbs in a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose that’s designed to limit tummy trouble and also contains four types of electrolyte. Although it doesn’t form a hydrogel in the stomach, Beta Fuel does have a couple of advantages over Maurten’s drink mix. One is that it’s cheaper, and the other is that it comes in two flavours – orange, and lemon and lime.
Buy from SiS | £30 for 12 sachets
Tailwind Endurance Fuel
These handy gel-shaped packs fit into a pocket easily, making them ideal for runners tackling long-distance events to carry until a water source is reached. Each pack contains two servings, though you mix it all at once into 500-700ml of water; the two servings combined contain 50g of carbs, all of which are sugars, and 200 calories. There is a good range of flavours including several caffeinated options.
Buy from Tailwind | £14.95 for eight sachets