Staying Hydrated: Sports Drinks vs. Water

Whether you’re a recreational exerciser or a serious athlete, staying hydrated is important. But when choosing between sports drinks and water, which is right?

Learn more about how to stay hydrated.

For Shorter Workouts, Water Wins

The simplest option is often the best one. For sweat sessions lasting under an hour, experts agree plain old H20 is all you need to stay hydrated and stave off fatigue, cramps and dizziness. If you’re partial to a sweeter taste, try boosting your water with natural flavorings like lemon or lime juice, sliced cucumber or even crushed berries.

How much water do you need? That depends in part on the length and intensity of your workout. In general, you should strive to drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before being active and another 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes while exercising, recommends the American Council on Exercise.

Going the Distance? Try a Sports Drink

Sports drinks can be a good choice for longer, more intense workouts lasting an hour or more. Why? Most of them contain potassium and sodium to replenish electrolytes — minerals that affect muscle function — which you lose through perspiration. They also include carbohydrates to help you stay energized.

Still, these sports drinks contain calories (up to 150 per serving) that water doesn’t, so it’s important to keep track of how much you consume. Many also tend to contain added sweeteners, and can deliver as many as 10 teaspoons of sugar as observed by Harvard Health. If you regularly drink sports drinks while exercising, look for low-calorie, low-sugar options. Coconut water, for instance, is a natural source of electrolytes that’s free of added sugars and contains as few as 45 calories per serving.

Sports Drinks vs. Water

Water is probably enough to keep most folks hydrated during exercise. But if you’re working out for an hour or longer, switch to a sports drink to replace those lost electrolytes and get a quick dose of energizing carbohydrates.

Wherever you get your fluids, remember to give yourself a pat on the back for a workout well done.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

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