As temperatures rise, staying properly hydrated becomes vital for optimal athletic performance and health. In the realm of sports nutrition, the choice between sports drinks and plain water often causes confusion. Whether you’re a casual “weekend warrior” or a fitness enthusiast, the following information can guide you toward reaching your full potential by understanding the benefits of different hydration options.
When should we drink water versus sports drinks?
For exercise lasting longer than 1 hour, it is recommended to consume sports drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes. If your exercise duration is shorter than 1 hour, you can simply drink water. However, if you tend to have visible salt crystals on your body after sweating and cooling (meaning you may be what’s known as a “salty sweater”), or you’ve been active on a very hot and humid day, a sports drink with electrolytes and low or no carbohydrates might be beneficial, even for those shorter durations.
Why do sports drinks work?
Fueling up with carbohydrates during exercise helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels and fight off fatigue. Electrolytes, such as sodium, play a crucial role in an athlete’s performance and wellbeing. When you sweat, sodium is the primary electrolyte lost. Replenishing sodium levels helps you drink more, decreases trips to the bathroom, and keeps your blood volume in check. Including sodium in your hydration routine ensures you fully rehydrate and perform at your peak.
How can we make sports drinks at home?
Get creative and unleash your inner mixologist with a homemade sports drink. Combine different 100% juices to your liking, aiming for a carbohydrate content of approximately 15 grams per 8 fluid ounces (1 cup). For every quart (32 fluid ounces) of liquid, add around 1/4 teaspoon of salt (about 110 mg of sodium per cup). Test your recipe during training sessions before you have any important events to make sure it meets your requirements. Start with this recipe below and trust your taste buds and performance to lead the way to your new favorite drink!
- 3 1/2 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons strawberry nectar (or other 100% fruit juice)
Directions: In a large pitcher, dissolve the salt and sugar with hot water. Add remaining juice and water, chill overnight, and drink cold during exercise.
For additional tips on staying hydrated, click here for a printable handout.
- Clark, N. (2014). Nancy Clark’s sports nutrition guidebook. Fifth edition. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.
- Casa, D. J., Armstrong, L. E., Hillman, S. K., Montain, S. J., Reiff, R. V., Rich, B. S., Roberts, W. O., &
Stone, J. A. (2000). National athletic trainers’ association position statement: fluid replacement for
athletes. Journal of athletic training, 35(2), 212 212–224.