Isotonic, hypotonic or hypertonic

Stomach cramp, absorption problems? Sound familiar during the running? Unfortunately, many of us have suffered some problems during the running, especially in the long run. Or probably you struggle lack of energy during training or racing. Have you ever thought what you drink or eat during the long run or before the run?

Osmolality means the number of dissolved molecules and ions in the clone solvent. Osmolality depends on its carbohydrate and electrolyte content and the quality of the carbohydrates. There are three different solutions:

Hypotonic: The hypotonic solution has low osmotic pressure, which means that extra cellular fluids is lower osmolality than the fluids inside the cell. So the water flows from the lower solute concentration to higher concentration. By that, hypotonic solution absorbs to the bloodstream faster.

Hypotonic drink often consists of 1-3% carbohydrate (~4g carbs per 100ml). They are good for quickly replace of sweat loss, but because of the low content of carbs, they might not be the best during for marathon or other long sessions which requires more energy.

Isotonic: Whereas hypotonic has a lower concentration than blood, the isotonic solution has the same concentration of water outside of the cell than inside of the cell. They absorb in the body about as long as water.

Isotonic drinks contain about 6-8% carbohydrates (4-8g per 100ml), which makes it good for hydration and boots for carbs. They are recommended to use during the marathon or long and hard training session.

Hypertonic: The hypertonic solution contains more fluids outside of the cell than the inside of the cell. Hypertonic drinks take more time to absorb than water, so energy release to bloodstream takes more time.

Hypertonic solutions contain a lot of calories, as their carbs concentration is high, around +10% (more than 8g carbs per 100ml). They are good after the training session to replace muscle glycogen stores or during ultra distances where fluid and energy intake are higher.

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What about the stomach cramps and absorption problems?
If you have a sensitive stomach I would recommend staying away hypertonic products. Hypotonic products are often most sensible from the stomach, but they don’t provide as much energy than isotonic. If you still find isotonic products too strong for you, try to use only hypotonic, you just might take the bigger amount of them. Some product makes regular gels and isotonic gels. Try them separately so you can recognize if any problems appear. There are also, regular gels with caffeine on the market, which give that little extra boost without being too strong for the stomach.
Buy sport drinks tablets or concentrated drinks so you can make suitable strength for yourself.

Test, test, and test. It’s the only way to find out which is good for you.

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