Everyone can agree that hydration during workouts is important. It not only quenches thirst, but also helps to replenish the water and minerals that we have sweated out. It keeps us balanced. The great debate lies in which hydration choices are the best. The answer varies depending on what type of activity you are doing, what the conditions are, and of course personal preference. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hydration choices.
Our sweat is mostly made of water. It also has small amounts of ammonia, salts, and sugars from the foods that we eat. The salty components are comprised of sodium, chloride, and potassium. Ammonia and Urea are what is left after your body breaks down protein. When we sweat, we lose some of those minerals too. Eating a healthy diet and drinking ample amounts of water each day help keep those balances in check. When eating healthily, the body is naturally able to replenish everything that is lost in daily activities and short exercise routines. It takes a lot of sweat and/or extreme heat and strenuous conditions for the body to lose more minerals than it is capable of replenishing through normal healthy eating. This is where your sports drink can be beneficial.
If an activity lasts for an hour or less, usually water alone is just fine. Of course if you are a heavy sweater or you are outside in extreme summer temperatures, you will need more than just water. Activities lasting longer than an hour will require a little help from sports drinks to help replenish those lost minerals and electrolytes. Sports drinks are formulated to help balance those mineral losses by having sodium, potassium, and sometimes magnesium in them. Not all sports drinks are equal. Some have so many calories and grams of sugar that they end up defeating the purpose of using them. Look for sports drinks that are low in sugar and calories and have minerals added to them. Multi-hour events, like triathlons or marathons, will need to consume at least 12oz of sports drink every hour to keep their bodies balanced and hydrated. Water is recommended for use in between those sports drinks, remember sweat is mostly water.
How can you tell if your electrolytes and mineral balances are off? You might be able to feel it when you are working out. Leg cramps, side cramps, sloshy stomachs, insatiable thirst, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and very dark urine color are all signs of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Experiment with all of the different brands of sports drinks that are available and see which ones work best for you. Try drinking 12oz of sports drink each hour with your workouts and prevent that tired slumped feeling at the end. You’ll be able to finish strong and help recover faster with proper hydration.
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