Drinking Water Vs. Sports Drinks: Which Is Better For Your Health?
Sports drinks vs. water: which reigns supreme? There are certain instances where guzzling a sports drink is your best option, but good old-fashioned water is the way to go in most cases.
Below, I wanted to take a deep dive into the benefits and disadvantages of sports drinks to help you determine which option is best for you.
Benefits Of Sports Drinks
Unlike water, most sports drinks contain added carbohydrates and electrolytes. When you perform intense exercises and do a lot of physical activity, your body uses stored carbohydrates for fuel and retains moisture through electrolytes.
Do you know how your sweat takes a little salty? That’s your body sweating out essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. You can quickly restore these lost energy levels by grabbing a sports drink with added carbs and electrolytes.
When you hit the wall when training, that’s a cue that your body has used up all its available fuel, aka carbohydrates. To give your body a quick boost (like jumping the battery on your car), guzzling an energy drink can help you push past that wall and increase your athletic performance.
However, in most cases, grabbing a sports drink isn’t necessary. They are primarily used by endurance athletes that are training for over an hour without stopping, for by athletes that engage in quick bursts of energy followed by rest (think football players).
These drinks aren’t necessary for most runners and add unnecessary calories and a high amount of sugar to their diet to stall weight loss.
Disadvantages Of Sports Drinks
Your favorite sports drink tastes great for a reason! Many popular brands are packed with a lot of added sugar that can stall weight loss if you aren’t careful. My favorite 20 oz bottle of blue Gatorade contains around 140 calories per serving.
I need to jog for at least 19 minutes to burn those calories in my recovery drink. One bottle contains approximately 34 grams of added sugar, around 70 percent of your daily dietary requirements!
To understand just how much sugar these drinks contain, a small glazed donut contains around 15 grams of sugar – roughly half as much as a sugary sports drink! If you are running to reduce body weight, the last thing you would ever do is wolf down a glazed donut at the end of your run.
Healthy Sport Drink Alternatives
What’s great about chocolate milk is that it provides runners with the perfect carbohydrate to protein ratio. It helps rehydrate your body while added carbs and protein build back strong muscles and help you recover faster. Plus, who doesn’t love chocolate milk?
Other refreshing alternatives include coconut water, orange juice, or cherry juice.
You can also make your recovery drink at home free from added sugar and artificial ingredients.
My favorite at-home recovery drink looks a little something like this:
- 1 bottle of coconut water (Amy & Brian Coconut Wateris best for hydration needs)
- A pinch of sea salt
- Citrus of choice (lemon, lime, or even orange juice)
- Honey for sweetness
When To Reach For Water?
Sports drinks certainly have their place, but plain water is the way to go more often than not.
Most tap or bottled water provides runners with proper hydration containing minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium (similar to electrolyte-boosting sports drinks). It’s calorie-free and the best choice in most situations.
If your daily running sessions last under the 60-minute mark, your body has enough fuel from your diet to sustain you to the end of your workout.
For most cases, drinking water is the best choice to rehydrate, refuel, and keep calories low.
I have a little bit of a ritual in the summertime. When the temperatures are over 90 degrees, I pop a neon blue Gatorade in the freezer to grab at the end of my run.
While I sweat it out on a long summertime trail run, my mind drifts back to that ice-cold neon blue drink waiting for me in my car. Guzzling down that Gatorade may taste great, but it is doing me any favors post-run, or is water my best option?
Reaching for a sugary sports drink is fine as a treat every once in a while, but you don’t want to make a habit of it. Unless your daily training lasts over an hour or includes intense bursts of energy over a long period, drinking enough water is the way to go.
These drinks often pack in more sugar than a Snickers bar, which is a surefire way to stall weight loss if you guzzle them down on the regular.
If you want to add a little boost of nutrition or flavor to your water, I suggest investing in an infuser bottle. These simple bottles allow you to infuse your water with natural flavors (such as cherries, raspberries, blueberries, or even cucumber) to make boring old water a little more exciting.
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