Runners and athletes need to stay hydrated for optimum results. While water is usually a go-to drink for this purpose, some runners swear by their sports drink. So which is the best source of hydration – water or sports drink? Let’s find out.
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Staying hydrated is very important when you work out, particularly in the hot summer months when your body loses fluids and essential electrolytes through perspiration. Lack of proper hydration allows fatigue to set in the muscles, thus reducing your energy and hindering your exercise routine. The feeling of thirst may not always be an indicator of how much liquid you need to drink to prevent dehydration.
Follow these hydration tips and work towards attaining your goals.
- Drink two glasses of water before beginning your workout.
- Take liquids every 15-20 minutes during your activity to prevent muscles from feeling fatigued
- Make sure you drink up post workout too to replenish fluids and salts that may have been lost during activity.
Now that you know the importance of hydration let us move on to talking about which liquids are best for keeping you hydrated, along with a list of the 6 best sports drinks in the market.
Benefits of Drinking Water for Hydration
No matter what sports drinks are available in the market, a good old bottle of water will never let you down. Here are all the reason why runners trust this cheap, yet effective liquid for hydration:
- If you’re running to lose weight, water is your BFF. Water increases metabolism, which helps losing weight quicker, even more so if the water is cold. Drinking cold water make your body work t warm it up, thus burning a few extra calories in the process.
- Drinking the right amount of water assists the heart in pumping the blood more effectively. It also helps the blood carry oxygen, along with the other nutrients, to your cells.
- Another reason to drink water while running is that it prevents the muscles from cramping up, thus allowing you to run longer.
Water is a good source of hydration for short runs and easy workouts. It is vital for replenishing hydration but, based on the intensity of your workout, you need to figure out if you need sports drinks to maintain electrolyte balance and prevent muscle fatigue.
Sports Drinks vs. Water
The benefits of drinking water for hydration are many but the question that plagues athletes and fitness enthusiasts is “do sports drinks hydrate better than water?”
What you need to remember is that be it in any form; the idea is to take plenty of fluids to get the best out of your workout regimen.
There are different theories on whether sports drinks hydrate better than water. The market is filled with several sports drinks that contain a balanced level of electrolytes or low or no-calorie sports drinks that claim to be health-friendly. It is imperative that you weigh your options and find out the best sports drink to fuel your fitness pursuits.
Given below are all the reasons why sports drinks are so popular among fitness freaks:
Faster absorption of fluids
Fluids get absorbed faster through the gut and into the bloodstream. This is because the sports drinks are made with an osmolality that’s similar to fluids in the human body, the main example of which is blood.
Electrolytes regulate fluid balance
Sports drinks contain sodium and other electrolytes that help maintain suitable fluid levels in your body. Optimal fluid balance contributes to hydration when you engage in the strenuous physical activity.
Sodium induces thirst
Since sports drinks contain a little amount of sodium, they are known to boost thirst. This is another reason why you quickly feel satisfied after drinking a few sips of plain water, but you are tempted to have more and more of your favorite sports drink. The ideal amount of sodium is 15 mg per oz.
Without a doubt, water is a very popular fluid choice and it works best for light workout or shorter runs but if you run longer; ultra hydrating sports drinks are more viable. Also, sports drinks have a certain amount of calories that augment energy levels, keep a check on immune system suppression, boost recovery and check reduced energy-induced injury to muscles. Low or no-calorie sports drinks contain fewer carbs but not enough fuel to take you through longer runs.
Remember, nothing can substitute the importance of water as a source of hydration. Endurance sports drinks become necessary when you want to fuel your muscles for heavy workouts, hours of athletic training or long runs.
Water vs. Gatorade
Gatorade is probably one of the most popular energy drinks, and is the top choice for runners, second only to water. Lots of athletes argue that water is much better for hydration than Gatorade, while some others believe the opposite to be true.
While it is true that, when it comes to hydration, nothing is better than a glass of water; if you want to run longer, a sports drink is a must have; and Gatorade is the best sports drink the market has to offer. As mentioned previously, sports drinks have sodium in them (Gatorade has 11%, or 250mg of sodiom per 591ml), which makes you want to have more of it, keeping away fatigue for a longer amount of time.
So, if you are planning on a short run, say for 30 to 45 minutes, you can stick to drinking water. But if you want to run for one or two hours, carry a bottle of Gatorade.
Choosing the Right Sports Drink
The best sports drink will hydrate you enough and maintain an optimum balance of fluids in your muscles and blood.
There is another theory circulating in the athletics circuit that a little amount of protein in the drink helps in hydrating you better than the conventional ones because it has the ability to boost the absorption rate. Protein also improves fluid retention because it adds some density to the fluid and prevents it from reaching the bladder too soon through the bloodstream. A carb-protein drink containing little amounts of carbohydrates and protein along with essential electrolytes can work wonders in increasing the endurance levels.
The Best (and Worst) Sports Drinks
Let’s take a quick look at the best sports drink that will help you remain hydrated.
1. Gatorade Frost Glacier Cherry Thirst Quencher
Being a popular brand of sports drink, a question that often comes to mind is “does Gatorade hydrate you?”
The answer is yes.
The Frost Glacier Cherry offering from Gatorade contains 21g of sugar, 80 calories and 45mg of potassium.
2. Pur Pak: Citrus
Pur Pak tastes sour but contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, Coenzyme Q10, glucosamine, chondroitin, iron and potassium. It is low on calories and supports active lifestyles.
3. PowerBar Perform
It may be little watery, but you can add some extra powder to suit your taste buds. The lemon-lime flavor is appetizing, and it contains sugar, some calories, small amount of carbs and enough sodium to boost hydration and fluid retention.
4. Cytomax Sports Performance Drink: Grape
The taste of grape adds zing to this composition of nutrients - vitamins A and C -, calories and sugar. You can have this delicious sports drink before and during your running routine. You can drink this delicious sports drink before and during your runs.
5. Muscle Milk Cookies ‘N’ Crème
Packed with protein, Muscle Milk is available in creamy flavors. Just as it’s great for the taste buds, it works for boosting endurance levels and promoting faster recovery. It tastes sweet but does not seem to have artificial sweeteners.
6. Powerade Zero
This zero calorie sports drink works for less intensive workouts or short runs. Powerade tastes great and is chock-full of electrolytes to make it the best electrolyte drink.
Now that you know all about the best sports drinks, it’s time to move your focus to the ones you should avoid.
Endurox Accelerade may claim to rehydrate and improve endurance, but it does not have a good taste and makes you feel like you want to throw up after drinking it. Similar is the story of PowerBar Orange that leaves you disappointed due to its unpleasant taste.
If you can tide over the taste of Greater Than Berry Blue Coconut Water, you can consider having it for its claims to have two times the electrolytes present in popular sports drinks.
The benefits of plain old water can never be undermined during a light workout and short runs but sports drinks are excellent when you need to boost hydration and endurance levels while obtaining the benefits of electrolytes.
Be generous on water intake and judicious on sports drinks, but carbonated drinks are a complete no-no.
Stay healthy, stay hydrated!