Q: Does a high school athlete need a sports drink for practice?

A: Maybe! Sports drinks definitely have a role in hydrating athletes. The general guideline is that when activity is continuous for longer than one hour, then a sports drink can help to maintain energy levels. 

When it comes to selecting sports drinks for prolonged activity, it makes sense to choose a sports drink that contains carbohydrates like: Gatorade, Powerade, etc. The reason for this is that during each hour of exercise about 30 - 60 grams of carbohydrates* are metabolized. Having a sports drink will help to maintain fluid levels, blood sugar levels, and energy during prolonged activity.

*Note - athletes working out longer than 2 - 3 hours (e.g. triathletes, ultra-endurance athletes) will burn up even more carbohdyrates per hour. 

When focusing on your hydration, arriving to games and practices in a hydrated state is so important. Research shows that about 76% - 89% of athletes arrive to practice under-hydrated, which then makes it difficult to bring the body to a hydrated state and play at your peak. See the Hydration Overview handout for more recommendations on fluid intake. 

Arnaoutis, et al. FLUID BALANCE DURING TRAINING IN ELITE YOUNG ATHLETES OF DIFFERENT SPORTS. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Dec; 29(12): 3447–3452.

Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. February 2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - pp 377-390