Citius Altius Fortius – Drinks for Athletes
Sports drinks enhance hydration and energy levels. Their solubility is an important characteristic for the bioavailability. In this report we study the solubility rate of sport drinks by monitoring the particle size distribution over time.
The main purpose of sport drinks, or carbohydrate electrolyte drinks, is to maintain hydration, replace lost electrolytes and enhance performance before, during or after exercise.
Carbohydrates, the main fuel source for muscles and brain, are generally supplied in concentrations lower than 8 %, as higher concentrations slow down water absorption in the intestine. They mostly consist of the easily digestible mono- or disaccharides (glucose, fructose, sucrose), or of more complex saccharides designed to increase the rate at which fluids empty from the stomach.
The electrolytes most commonly added are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Sodium stimulates the absorption of water and carbohydrates from the intestine, improves fluid retention, and makes the athlete thirsty – thus also indirectly improving hydration. Potassium assists with muscle contraction and hydration. Calcium is involved in controlling muscle contraction and plays vital roles in enzyme reactions as well as transmission of nerve impulses in general. Magnesium is also key to muscle function, but unlike sodium and potassium, is not lost through sweating. Therefore, its presence in sports drinks is meant to support long-term muscle function rather than to replenish electrolytes lost through exercise.
In dry form (powders, tablets), sport drinks can easily be transported and the concentration can be adjusted for sugar control. Their consumption implies to add them to water, let them dissolve and drink them. These drinks achieve their maximum potential when they are completely dissolved, which, ideally, should happen as quickly as possible . Furthermore, as the particle size of key ingredients (carbohydrates, electrolytes) greatly influence their bioavailability, the final particle size of the product should be reached rapidly and be as small as possible.
Apart of the optimal solubility, the taste and mouthfeel are very important parameters of the sport drinks. Knowing the particle size of the sport drinks along the time not only optimizes the biological uptake but defines the exact moment in time when the drink tastes better. Furthermore, the mouthfeel is strongly influenced by the particle size; it was demonstrated  that a particle size of > 30 μm gives a rough feeling on the tongue.
In this application report, we have studied the solubility of commercial sports drinks in powder form, by monitoring their particle size in water over time, using a PSA 1190 analyzer. We demonstrate that the instrument can be used as quality control tool to study the product in powder form and final characteristics of the carbohydrate electrolyte drinks.
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