With summer heat at its high point, you may be tempted to reach for a cold electrolyte beverage to quench your thirst. With so many brands of sports drinks on the market claiming they are essential for hydration, it can be challenging to determine if and when to consume these beverages. When is water enough to hydrate you and when might you need to think about including a beverage containing electrolytes to refuel?

Water vs Sports Drink

Water is generally the best way to replace fluids in the body. Use this rule of thumb when you are considering drinking a sports drink: if you will be exercising for more than 60 minutes, refuel with a sports drink. These types of beverages can help maintain your body’s electrolyte balance and give you some added carbohydrates and sodium which you may need if you are vigorously exercising. You may also need to drink a sports drink if you are exercising or working outdoors for long periods and temperatures and humidity are high.

If you are exercising for a short duration and your body has not lost a significant amount of fluid or electrolytes, you may not need to consume an electrolyte beverage. Consuming sports drinks under these types of circumstances can result in unnecessary calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. If you enjoy the flavor of sports drinks, explore some of the lower sugar varieties on the market, these will be lower in calories. There are also ways to add flavor to water that can improve the taste without the added calories like lemon, berries, or mint.

The key is to stay hydrated before exercise or heat exposure to prevent dehydration, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. It is important to drink water before, during, and after exercise or physical activity, especially when you are outdoors. You can also stay hydrated by (with?) the foods you consume. Many fruits and vegetables have high water content and can add to your hydration levels, be sure to include plenty in your meals and snacks! Check out the facts below for some hydration recommendations.


Hydration Facts

  • Do the math. A 5 foot 10 inch male weighing around 150 pounds burns approximately 140 calories for a 30 minute walk, a 20 oz. Gatorade contains 150 calories.
  • Use caution when humidity if high. Sweat is your body’s method of cooling itself down, this method can be challenged on a humid day when the sweat cannot evaporate to cool your skin down.
  • Re-hydrate. Weigh yourself before and after you exercise. For every pound of body weight loss, replace with three cups of water to properly re-hydrate.