Sports Drinks or Water – Which is Better for Proper Hydration?

sports-drinks-or-waterWater is superb for hydration purposes and vital to good health. It aids in circulation, digestion, and joint lubrication, and assists in the loading and storing of energy-providing glycogen in your muscles. Today, in addition to water, you have many choices to keep yourself hydrated. Just check the aisles of your local grocery store, and you’ll see all sorts of “enhanced” waters that contain vitamins, minerals, caffeine, sugars, flavorings, and other additives. There are also sports drinks designed to replenish electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, which are lost through sweating. So, which do you choose? The answer depends on how long and hard you are exercising.

While sports drinks and enhanced waters can provide adequate hydration, the average person doesn’t need the extra sugar, carbohydrates, and calories. Therefore, these drinks shouldn’t take the place of regular water intake, but rather should be reserved for long workouts during which your hard-working muscles require additional energy. Here are some general guidelines on what to drink and when to drink it:

  • Choose water if you’re simply relaxing at home, walking, running a short distance (less than three miles), studying, or sitting at your desk working.
  • Choose a sports drink if you’re actively working out for more than an hour, exercising in extreme heat or humidity or at a high altitude, or participating in a sport such as wrestling, where you limited your caloric intake prior to a weigh-in.

Most people do not consume enough plain water. Make it your beverage of choice, and drink it throughout the day to help keep your body hydrated. If you are working out vigorously for an hour or longer, you might lose enough electrolytes to warrant replacing them through a sports drink. Keep in mind, though, that lost electrolytes can also be replaced through a balanced diet that includes mineral-rich fruits and vegetables.

For more advice on how to keep yourself and your family healthy and hydrated, be sure to review our online series of health articles. If you have questions, please contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic.