Water vs. Sports Drinks
What should you choose for improved performance?
Proper hydration is important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for athletes, even the recreational kind, is essential to comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids. Studies have found that a loss of two or more percent of one's body weight due to sweating is linked to a drop in blood volume. When this occurs, the heart works harder in order to move blood through the bloodstream. This can lead to reduced performance of elite athletes. However, more research is finding that recreational exercisers are also at risk of drinking too much water and suffering from hyponatremia or water intoxication. Clearly, drinking the right amount of the right fluids is critical for performance and safety while exercising.
To find the correct balance of fluids for exercise, the AmericanCollege Of Sports Medicine suggests the following:
1. 1. Eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet & drink plenty of fluids between exercise sessions.
(Plain water or fluids without sugar, caffeine or alcohol are the best).
2. 2. Drink 17 oz (2+ Cups) of fluid 2 hours before exercise.
3. 3. Drink every 15 minutes during exercise.
4. 4. Keep drinks cooler than air temperature & close at hand (a water bottle is ideal).
5. 5. If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you may benefit from a sports drink containing carbohydrate (not greater than 8% concentration, though).
6. 6. Take 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to delay fatigue & fuel muscle contractions.
7. 7. Inclusion of sodium (0.5-0.7 g.1(-1) of water)ingested during exercise lasting longer than an hour may enhance palatability, and therefore encourage athletes to drink enough.
How much is enough?
To get an idea of just how much you need to drink, weigh yourself before and after your workouts. Any weight decrease is probably due to water loss (sorry, but you didn't just lose 2 pounds of body fat). Any weight gain could indicate you are drinking too much. .
What about Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces helps to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance. It's really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you're unlikely to deplete your body's stores of these minerals during normal training. If, however, you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over 3 or 5 hours (a marathon, Ironman or ultramarathon, for example) you will need to add a complex sports drink with electrolytes. Athletes who don't consume electrolytes under these conditions risk overhydration (or hyponatremia). The most likely occurence is found in the longer events (five hours or more) when athletes drink excessive amounts of electrolyte free water, and develop hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration).
What about Caffeine?
While caffeine may have some ergogenic properties, remember that it acts as a diuretic causing your body to excrete fluid instead of retaining it, so it is not the wisest choice when trying to hydrate. You're better off with plain water or fruit juice until your weight reaches that of your pre-exercise state.