Sports Drinks vs. Water: What’s the Best Way to Hydrate?
When it comes to athletic performance and exercise, hydration is key. Because the human body is comprised of more than 70 percent water, drinking plenty of fluids helps maintain and replenish what you lose in the heat of competition or exercise.
Water is best, of course. But sports drinks provide a good source of hydration as well.
Henry Ford athletic trainer Nicole Schreiber breaks down their benefits.
“In most cases, water alone is sufficient for hydration,” Schreiber says. “It keeps your body cool and helps make your muscles and joints work better while preventing cramps and fatigue.”
Sports drinks help the body restore important minerals like sodium, potassium and calcium that are lost as you sweat, Schreiber says. She recommends sports drinks for high intensity activity or long duration exercise.
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“Sports drinks have sodium in them, so they’re going to make you thirsty. When you’re thirsty, you want to drink more. In doing so, you’re keeping your body hydrated. That’s a good thing,” she says. “Water is still important but sports drinks replace those nutrients you naturally lose during a game or exercise.”
In a recent study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine, United Kingdom researchers found that soccer players who consumed a 12 percent carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink had increased blood sugar levels and improved dribbling speed and performance compared to water and a placebo.
Understanding and Avoiding Dehydration
To avoid dehydration, Schreiber offers these tips:
- Drink, drink, drink.
- Hydrate before, during and after a game, run or exercise.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration are:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Low urine output
“Listen to your body,” Schreiber says. “If you’re not drinking enough, your body will give you clues. Be smart.”
Nicole Schrieber, MA, AT, ATC, is a certified athletic trainer who currently works with the Henry Ford Concussion Clinic team at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus in Novi.