What to Drink When You Exercise
The options include sports drinks, energy drinks, and just regular water.
We all know that when we work out, it's important to stay hydrated.
Something we may not be so clear on is what exactly we should drink when we
Ordinary water, of course, is the classic choice. But with store shelves
everywhere full of sports drinks, energy drinks, and various flavored and
fortified waters, what's an exerciser to do?
Experts say it all depends on your taste -- as well as the length and
intensity of your workouts. Here's a look at how the various drinks measure
Flavored or Unflavored?
When I'm really thirsty, the only thing that hits the spot is good old H2O
-- preferably cold. But that's just me.
Are you someone who will drink more if your drink is flavored (and there are
plenty of you out there)? Then you're better off drinking whatever ends up
helping you drink more when you exercise. The bottom line is
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends flavored drinks when
fluid replacement is needed during and after exercise to enhance palatability
and promote fluid replacement.
And how do you know when fluid replacement is really needed?
"Exercising 1.5 hours to three hours is long enough to warrant fluid
replacement due to sweat losses," says Kristine Clark, Ph., FACSM, director
of sports nutrition for Penn State University Park. "How much sweat is lost
influences how much sodium and potassium are lost."
The longer you exercise and the more heavily you sweat, the greater the need
for a sports drink to help replace these lost micronutrients, Clark says.
"A sports drink can do many great things to increase energy levels
without the complications of digesting and absorbing a meal," says
Sports Drinks and Exercise
Basically, a sports drink offers your body three things it might need
before, during, or after vigorous exercise:
- Hydration. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that
people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise, to
promote adequate hydration and allow time for the body to excrete any excess
water. During exercise, they recommend that athletes start drinking early and
at regular intervals in order to take in fluids at the rate they're losing them
- Fuel. The carbohydrates found in sweetened sports drinks provide
energy to help delay fatigue, Clark says. The Gatorade Co. says lab tests have
shown that 6% carbohydrate (14 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces of water) is
the optimal percentage of carbs for speeding fluid and energy back into the
- Electrolytes or Minerals. These are things like sodium, potassium,
and chloride that athletes lose through sweat. When water goes out of the body,
so do electrolytes. And when the body is losing lots of water (as during
exercise), it makes sense that you need to replace electrolytes.