Hydration Education: Sports Drinks vs. Water

It is common knowledge that proper hydration is essential to a healthy body.  However, the type of hydration one gets is nearly as important as the fact that one gets it–as not all fluids are created equally.  In some cases water is the ideal hydration beverage, while in others a sports drinks is the ideal hydration beverage.  So how do you know when to drink which?

Sports Drinks vs. Water

It is the speed with which water, electrolytes and even sugars are absorbed into your bloodstream that can help determine whether sports drinks or water is the most beneficial hydration beverage.  Absorption is determined by the rate at which fluids are absorbed through the walls of the small intestine and the speed at which fluids are emptied from the stomach, and it is controlled by the carbohydrate and electrolyte concentrations in the fluid.  Generally speaking, beverages with higher carbohydrate concentrations have slower absorption rates, which means that sports drinks may fail to keep one sufficiently hydrated while exercising.  However, water often passes through the body rapidly and without sparking the insulin response that is necessary to ignite the body’s recovery process.  This means that an individual’s beverage choice needs to depend on whether they simply seek to rehydrate the body or replenish energy as well.

Where an individual is running for exercise, rehydration before and during running should be the main priority, which means they should drink water, water with electrolytes, or a heavily diluted sports beverage. Electrolytes can help to reduce urine output, speed up the rate at which fluids empty the stomach, promote absorption from the small intestine and encourage fluid retention.  When an individual has completed their exercise, their priority is no longer rehydration but recovery.  Water or heavily diluted sports beverages can actually oversaturate the body, which can lead to an electrolyte imbalance.  It is far better to turn to a beverage that contains sugars, electrolytes and maybe even protein.  A sports drink, especially one that contains protein, can therefore be the best post-exercise beverage.

It is important to consume enough of the proper type of fluids during and after exercising so that you neither drink too little nor too much.  A sweat loss calculator can help you determine the right amount of fluids to consume during and after exercising by providing you with the information you need to see exactly how much fluid intake and loss occurs during each workout.

Erica D'Arcangelo is an Internet Marketing Expert and co-owner of Fresh, Healthy & Fit where she is a regular contributor. Erica has been active in the health and fitness industry through spinning, yoga, HITT training and much more over the last decade. She's a fitness enthusiast and has also helped others with healthy living through her own blog.