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Do I Need a Sports Drink During Exercise?

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Fitness drinkWater is always an excellent choice for hydration; however sports drinks do have their place with athletes or with recreational gym goers. Today’s commercial drinks, such as PowerAde and Gatorade, incorporate electrolytes and carbohydrates with fluids to give the body a three for the price of one punch to increase all aspects of performance. Don’t confuse sports drinks with energy drinks, which contain caffeine and sometimes unregulated herbal stimulants. The tips listed below will help you decide when to choose a sports drink and when to choose water!

When to choose a sports drink over water

  • During a high intensity practice session, workout, or competition lasting over an hour. Water is a great choice for shorter workouts (like less than 45-60 minutes)
  • After practice, workout, or competition to help you rehydrate and replenish some carbohydrates you used for energy as well as electrolytes lost in sweat.
  • Or if you are tired of water and need something different to motivate you to re-hydrate
  • Other Options Coconut water like Vita Coco is slightly lower in calories than a sports drink and still provides electrolytes lost in sweat, so if you do not like the taste of traditional sports drinks or are looking for fewer calories, this would be a great option for you. It is also all natural with nothing artificial in it.

Benefits of a sports drink

  • Sports drinks contain electrolytes, most importantly sodium, which is lost through sweat
  • Sports drinks can be quickly absorbed and therefore empty more quickly from your stomach, so you have less of a “sloshy” feeling
  • The carbohydrates in sports drinks are an added source of fuel
  • The good taste of sports drinks stimulates the desire to drink fluids

Don’t be fearful of the calories

If you avoid sports drinks because you don’t want the calories they contain, consider this: studies show that exercisers who drink sport drinks at needed training sessions (over one hour) are less likely to overeat following a workout!

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Tags: Healthy Eating

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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