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345644_LS-2003-05.jpgStaying adequately hydrated during sport and exercise is necessary to optimize performance, prolong fatigue and protect health.  Sports drinks are often promoted as a necessity after a workout. However, few people realize that sports drinks can provide more harm than benefit.  Sports drinks can certainly hydrate you and replenish your body from lost electrolytes, which include potassium and sodium. These minerals carry a charge and help keep the body functioning properly. Sports drinks can also be high in sugar and calories.

Those who only exercise once per day can easily replenish with normal fluid and mealtime intake.  However, those who train more than once a day or sweat throughout the day will need more aggressive fluid replacement as well as adequate salt intake. For individuals who engage in vigorous physical activity daily fluid and electrolyte needs can be significantly higher. In order to figure out just how much fluid you need to stay adequately hydrated it is best to weigh yourself before and after exercise. This will help you determine how much fluid weight your body lost during exercise. With this in mind, it is recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s sports nutrition practice manual to drink 24 fl oz for every pound of fluid lost.

To determine if extra fluids from sports drinks is required examine the duration of exercise and the intensity level. Those who exercise more than one hour/day and or at high intensity or those who participate in vigorous physical activity multiple times in a day may benefit from sports drinks.  Research has found that those who exercise over an hour will have a depletion of electrolyte and glycogen stores. Glycogen stores fuel the body during endurance exercise. Those who exercise in extreme heat also have increased fluid and electrolyte needs. With summer coming and warm weather quickly approaching, it is important to stay hydrated and avoid heat-related conditions that can hinder performance. These conditions include muscle cramping, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If you feel sports drinks taste too sweet, you can easily get all the electrolytes lost during exercise from a banana and some raisins; just be sure to drink plenty of water too. You can also consider chocolate milk for some extra protein.

Additionally, the media has also been giving lots of attention to coconut water. A recent article in men’s fitness discussed how coconut water has been found to adequately rehydrate athletes and is a natural source of electrolytes. It also lower in sugar than commercial sports drinks and has a lower glycemic index. As a result, it will not spike your blood sugars as much as other sugary beverages. They also noted to be weary about the low sodium content of coconut water, for the beverage only has two-thirds the amount of sodium compared to commercial sports drinks.

Many people over consume sports drinks feeling they need to finish the whole bottle. 32 fl oz of a sports drink can provide up to 200 calories and 56 g of sugar. One option could be to drink only 8-16 fl oz of the sports drink to reduce sugar and calorie intake and then get the rest of your fluid needs from water.

When it comes to sports drinks, think wisely. The bottom line is that it is important to drink adequate fluids before, during (if possible) and after activity. Read calorie labels, look at sugar intake, and reflect on how intense your workout was. Remember, you know your body better than anyone else; listen to it.

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