Hydration – Water Vs. Sports Drinks Featured Image

Sports Drinks and Water Intake

We’re well in to summer now and hopefully everyone is staying safe and healthy in the Texan sun! As we exercise a lot over here at BeFit hydration is often a conversation topic, specifically what is the best way to stay hydrated? Plain and simple water isn’t enough for some people these days. Also, how much fluid should we be taking in? Is it possible to drink too much water? And do different drinks work better when you are exercising versus when you are just hot from the summer heat?

Sports Drink Vs Water

Some of the big sports drink brands claim that their beverages hydrate better than water. Skeptics amongst us may think this is just marketing hyperbole but it actually appears to be true, at least when consumed by someone while they are exercising. The reasoning is four-fold:

  1. Fluid absorption – It is easier and quicker for the gut to absorb liquids that have a similar osmolality to bodily fluids. Water does not contain any dissolved minerals like sodium or carbohydrates like sugar. On the other hand, sports drinks do. This means that a sports drink will be absorbed in the bloodstream faster than water providing the drinker with a quicker hydration boost.
  2. Fluid balance – The minerals and carbohydrates in sports drinks do a better job than water at maintaining an optimal fluid balance in a person’s body. Sports drinks are better than water at regulating how much fluid needs to flow into muscles and other cells in the body.
  3. Stimulates thirst – As sports drinks contain sodium, the more you drink, the more you will stimulate thirst. This means you will be more likely to keep on drinking than if you were drinking water so your body has a greater chance of staying hydrated.
  4. Fluid excretion- Unlike sports drinks, water sends a signal to your kidney that there is excess fluid in the blood stream. This will cause you to urinate meaning that you are expelling the fluid you just took on board.

This doesn’t mean that water is all bad and that you should never drink a glass again. However, if you are an athlete or work out in the heat a lot, you may want to stick to sports drinks during this time. Continue drinking water during the day when you’re not working out so your hydration levels don’t dip. Drinking enough water will keep your whole body healthy.

How Much Should I Drink?

There is a lot of conflicting beliefs on how much liquid a person should take in on a daily basis. There isn’t really a set standard for all people as we all have different needs. Some people have medical conditions that limit how much they can drink and someone who works out a lot will likely need to drink more. The important thing is to recognize when you are at risk of becoming dehydrated and keep yourself healthy. The symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Lack of urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat

A suggested fluid intake for an athlete or someone about to exercise is 25 to 28 ounces in the 3 hours in the lead up to the exercise session. You should then aim to drink about 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes while exercising. Once your session is over, you should drink8 more ounces within 30 minutes. Of course, there are some variations due to gender, age and size but this is a general guideline to prevent dehydration during exercise.

There are also guidelines available for an average healthy adult who is not working out. Men should aim to drink 3 liters of beverages per day and a woman should aim for 2.2 liters beverages. Water is best but other fluids count towards the total.

People suffering from heart failure or who are receiving dialysis may need to limit their daily fluid intake to levels much below what is recommended for a healthy adult. The amount will usually be determined by the patient’s primary physician.

All people have a risk of drinking too much fluid and overhydrating. Athletes working out and training in hot climates are most at risk of suffering from overhydration. This can lead to dangerously low levels of sodium, unconsciousness and even coma.

The best thing am individual can do is monitor their own hydration levels, especially during the very warm months and when they are exercising. If you ever have concerns about your fluid intake, be sure to speak with a doctor.

Feeling better about your health or fitness shouldn’t be a chore. If you ever need some extra support, come by BEFIT to speak with one of our trainers or simply fill out a Free Consultation Request by clicking the link and a fitness professional will reach out to you within 24 hours.

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