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The truth about hypertonic and hypotonic isotonic drinks

The demand for prolonged, or high intensity, physical activity requires a strong knowledge of one’s own body and organism. Currently there are a large number of tests with the category ultra and hundreds of very but very demanding training plans, and in this context, handling adequate concepts on all aspects surrounding training (from diet and recovery, to other types of habits) is critical.
One of the figures with the most weight in this sense is the coach . The advice of coaches and physical trainers is becoming more and more extensive and is key to achieving the goals that the athlete is setting, and to do so in a healthy way. However, many athletes (generally non-professionals) choose self-taught ways of knowledge and preparation. The truth is that both coaches and athletes, regardless of their level, need to handle quality information to improve their knowledge of the routines that surround their sporting activity, from rest to hydration.

The lack of information, or directly the handling of inadequate information, ends up frustrating many athletes who have the feeling of “doing everything right” but are not able to improve their performance to reach reasonable goals.

The example of sports drinks is textbook. There are many different types of sports drinks, but the reality is that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation (largely sponsored by the industry itself) about the true nutritional and functional values of each one. This misinformation, leveraged in advertising, leads to hypertonic drinks being confused with hydration or to brands that are nothing more than sugar-filled soft drinks being passed off as isotonic drinks, even though their effect is quite the opposite!

In the end, you’re killing yourself in training but not reaching your goals because what should help you keep going is literally drying you out.

Isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks: all good, right? No, they’re not.

When talking about sports drinks, hypotonic drinks, hypertonic solutions and isotonic drinks, such as Raw Super Drink, are often mistakenly put into the same bag. We can go a little further, because within isotonic drinks we can also fall into the trap of thinking that they are all the same (even though Raw Super Drink is the only isotonic drink in the world that is completely organic and ecological, that does not use sugars or artificial additives in its production, and that is why we say, without any false modesty, that we are the best isotonic drink on the market).

The difference between these three types of drinks (isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic) is to be found in the explanation of osmotic pressure. Imagine that you put water and mineral salts in a container and divide it into two parts by separating them with a porous membrane. The osmotic pressure is the property that would make both parts of the container maintain the same balance of water and mineral salts. Well, the organism works in a very similar way to that container: without the osmotic pressure, on one side would be the blood (formed in more than 80% by water) and on the other the mineral salts, but thanks to this fundamental property are kept in balance.

Lemon & lima

Mandarine & mango

Strawberry & mint

Blueberry & Acai

Hypertonic drinks

Hypertonic drinks have a lot of mineral salts in them and although this may sound very good, the reality is that more mineral salts than usual end up dehydrating you. This is what is known as hypertonic dehydration. The osmotic pressure causes the extra mineral salts to act like sponges, absorbing a large amount of water to restore the balance on both sides of the cell membrane. This is why hypertonic solutions should only be used in very, very specific cases, with very controlled volumes and always under medical supervision. Obviously, you can imagine that this is not the type of hypertonic drink intended for regular training, let alone on a daily basis.

At the other extreme are hypotonic solutions, which contain very few electrolytes and mineral salts, and which end up “hyper-hydrating” our cells. With hypotonic drinks the same thing happens again: hyperhydration can sound quite good, but no! As with hypertonic drinks, this type of solution alters plasma osmolarity and should only be used by therapists and in really specific circumstances.

sugar-free isotonic drinks

On the other hand, isotonic drinks respect and maintain the osmotic balance: that is, they provide a balanced amount of mineral salts, electrolytes and water to our body, avoiding the associated risks of altering this important property. That is why isotonic solutions are ideal for hydration before, during and after training and to replace the electrolytes we lose through sweat. In addition, they are also recommended in processes of diarrhea and other digestive problems. As you can see, it is a question of balance and, as is always the case, the key is to achieve the right measure. That is why isotonic drinks are the best drinks for sportsmen and women, and the only ones that are always recommended.

Hydration (especially sports hydration) is a really serious issue, which should be dealt with very rigorously. To give an example, a marked deficit of sodium (one of the electrolytes present in our body) can degenerate relatively easily into a brain oedema.

Sports hydration: key to success

Without a doubt, one of the pillars of sporting success is maintaining good hydration. We tend to place a lot of importance on food (because it has it) and hydration tends to go unnoticed, but proper hydration helps you train, compete and recover better. Obviously, all the details matter, and hydration is one of the weight “details”, the kind that cannot be forgotten because, if you make a mistake there, you are lost.

That’s why, when an athlete tries to hydrate himself with a very mainstream and TV advertised fake isotonic, he can compromise months of hard work and training, end up frustrated and wondering what went wrong? Without finding an explanation.

The informative, critical and didactic attitude is in the same origin of Raw Super Drink, maybe that’s why we feel the obligation to redefine a series of very basic concepts, but also very important, so that each sportsman is able to make the best decisions. Making a good disclosure about the aspects related to hydration, breaking down topics and informing athletes in a real way is fundamental to enjoy sport in a healthy way, avoiding risks and injuries and improving performance.

hypertonic and hypotonic isotonic drinks

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