Water vs Sports Drinks: What's Better For Your Workout?
With temperatures soaring this summer, it’s extra important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workouts. Being dehydrated can give you a serious headache and leave you feeling tired and crummy, derailing your desire to work out (and making you less effective if you manage to make it to the gym). Since we could all probably stand to drink more water, we’ll leave that reminder riiiight here.
But hydration is actually about more than the amount of water and electrolytes you put into your body. It also has to do with the amount of water exiting your body, which happens through sweat, breathing, and urinating. During serious athletic events, you can lose up to 10% of your body weight from sweat! You’ve probably heard that some people drink sports drinks because of the electrolytes to help replace some of what we lose when we sweat.
So, when it comes to staying hydrated, are you better off packing the XXL water bottle, or should you reach for the Gatorade? Let’s dig in.
What’s in those sport drinks?
Not only are sports drink flavored so they can be more appealing than water, they also contain some ingredients to help you stay hydrated.
Sports drinks may contain:
- Electrolytes – we lose electrolytes when we sweat, and sports drinks aim to replace them
- Amino acids – the building blocks of protein, intended to help you recover faster
- Carbs – carbohydrates are one of your body’s sources of energy, so the carbs in your drink (which, keep in mind, mostly come from sugar) are meant to help refuel you.
Unfortunately, many sports drinks contain extra ingredients like added sugar. Is it worth the trade-off?
When to go for a sports drink:
If you’re engaging in high-intensity exercise for more than 45 minutes, a sport drink may help replenish your body of electrolytes more effectively than water. Don’t forget to check the ingredients list on your sports drink of choice—is there a healthier option with less added sugar?
When to stick with water:
For many regular workouts, water will do just fine. If you want to hydrate before you exercise, definitely go for the water; sports drinks are better for recovering after a hard workout than preparing for one.
- If you’re looking for a more natural solution to sports drinks, coconut water offers potassium and some electrolytes—although less sodium than you may need after a hard workout.
- Milk is a great hydrator, and chocolate milk is known as an awesome recovery drink.
- New research shows that tart cherry juice may improve recovery of isometric muscle strength after workouts.