As a sports nutritionist, I get a lot of questions like, “Is water the best option for hydration while I’m working out? What about sports drinks?”
If you feel confused about sports drinks and proper hydration, you are not alone. Just google “sports drinks and hydration” and you will be presented with almost 14 million search results. Who has time to sift through all of that information? Athletes and recreational exercisers in the past relied on water for the most part to hydrate, but as the overall liquid refreshment market has exploded in the past few decades it has left many confused people behind.
The industry has come a long way since the birth of Gatorade in the summer of 1965, at the University of Florida where the Gator’s assistant football coach wanted a solution for players whose performance was being compromised by the heat. Finding that these athletes were losing carbohydrates, water, and electrolytes during practice, scientists formulated the carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and called it Gatorade. Soon, the sports drink industry was born.
These days the majority of recreational athletes are not playing football in the Florida summer heat, so water is the best option for hydration before, during, and after a workout that is 90 minutes or less. The main goal of hydration is to replace the fluids lost in sweat. You can determine your sweat losses from a workout, called your sweat rate, by weighing yourself nude before and after an hour of exercise. To stay in optimal fluid balance while exercising, you should aim to drink 16 ounces (2 cups, or one bottle of hint®) for every pound lost during your workout to replace those sweat losses.
Here are five helpful hints to best hydrate your workout:
- To ensure you are properly hydrated before exercise, drink 1 to 2 cups of water 1 to 2 hours prior to exercise.
- When exercising longer than 90 minutes, a sports drink may be used to replace fluid, electrolyte, and carbohydrate needs. Athletes exercising longer should aim to consume 2 to 4 cups per hour based on body size, sweat rate, and exercise intensity.
- Those who exercise in a hot, humid environment or are heavy sweaters may benefit from consuming a sports drink during shorter bouts of exercise.
- Drink regular small sips early and often during your workout to stay ahead of your sweat losses. Too many big gulps of water can leave your stomach feeling full like a water balloon.
- If you have a hard time getting enough water down the hatch or just get bored with plain ol’ tap water, switch to hint® water to liven up your workout!