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What is Best After a Workout…Water or Sports Drinks?

sports drinksI ran 10 miles with my friend Susan this morning on a trail near our house, and by the last two miles I was seriously dragging. When I finished the run, I felt terrible… my legs were heavy and I felt sluggish. Lucky for me, my son had left a Gatorade (Fierce Grape) in my car and I drank it shortly after I finished. It tasted great, and I was amazed at how quickly I recovered. If we are exercising outside this summer, we are bound to sweat more than usual, and when we sweat we lose more than just water from our bodies. Our sweat contains minerals, which are also lost. Should we be replacing those with an energy drink? Is it more important during the summer months to drink sports drinks, like Gatorade? I guess the best answer is that it really depends.

According to physical therapist Alan Tyson, owner of Architech Sports and Physical Therapy what matters is the time that you exercise and the intensity. Water is a fine hydration replacement if you are working out for less than an hour and you are exercising at moderate exertion. However, because you are sweating more in the heat, you will need to drink a little more water than you normally do. When we sweat we lose electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, chloride, phosphate and sulfate are all electrolytes). Too much fluid loss can cause dehydration, and becoming dehydrated impairs athletic performance because it increases fatigue. Tyson says that the longer you exercise and the more heavily you sweat, the greater the need for a sports drink to help replace these lost micronutrients.

Some people don’t know that Gatorade has changed it’s recipe and removed the high fructose corn syrup from their drinks. They started this with the “G” series and are incorporating the change into all of their drinks. Flavor-enhanced waters such as Smartwater are other ways to get the electrolytes after a workout, without the high sugar content or the dyes. Gatorade has a low-calorie G2 alternative that provides the active person with the same healthy hydration benefits, but with only half of the calories and carbohydrate content. I like Vitamin Water, another enhanced water that has a variety of flavors.

So the answer to the question is that if you are working out for an hour or less at moderate effort, then water is fine. However, if you are like me, and are one of those people who think flavor makes water more palatable, then a flavored water is a good choice. The bottom line is hydration. However you can stay the most adequately hydrated, whether it’s with pure water, flavored water, or a sports drink, do it. Just remember that after about an hour, and especially in the heat at moderate to high exertion levels, you need to replace the lost minerals in the form of electrolytes and carbohydrates…that’s when the sports drinks are a good choice for sure.
What is your favorite post-workout drink?

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