We’re into hydration in a big way at our Newmarket physiotherapy clinic. Drinking water is the easiest and cheapest way to stay hydrated. By drinking plenty of water during the day we keep our energy and concentration levels up, so it’s good for us both physically and mentally. But what about sports drinks? Do they have a role to play in any hydration program?
There is a lot of debate about this topic. From what we can gather, there are sound arguments for and against, and we’re not going to use this post to urge you to drink them, or not to drink them. But studies suggest that the more intense the exercise, the more you’ll get out of sports drinks as they are formulated to replace the electrolytes and carbohydrates that are lost during intense activity.
It’s widely known that carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body, and at a chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Meanwhile, electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride are essential for the proper function of a wide range of bodily systems including cardiac, nervous, digestive and muscular. Sports drinks using a base of water, but with added carbs and electrolytes, are seen as having some benefit for professional athletes or those who regularly exercise for prolonged periods of time e.g. more than 60 minutes, during which time a significant amount of water and electrolytes are sweated out. In these cases, replenishment is vital to maintain performance and function, and sports drinks could certainly assist in this.
For the rest of us, who generally take it a little easier as we exercise, or who limit ourselves to about one hour at a time, water is all we need to stay hydrated. So, if you’re going for a gentle stroll in the park, you can forego that brightly coloured sports drink and stick with H2O.
Highly active people and athletes still need to keep up their water intake, even if they use sports drinks. You could say that water is what we are. Up to 60% of our body mass is made up of water, and even losing as little as 2% through dehydration can seriously impact physical and mental performance. On a normal day, when you aren’t exerting yourself to any great degree and losing fluid through sweat, it’s recommended that you still drink considerable amounts: just over 2 litres per day for women and 3 litres for men. Obviously, this will increase on hot days or if you’re exercising.
If you’re serious about sport and exercise, sports drinks are probably already part of your hydration program. But if you’re as active as most Kiwis, then water will do the job. Just ask our team – we’ll tell you that it’s the easiest and cheapest way to stay on top of your game.