Considering we are 60%-70% water, this fluid is the most important one to our body. Hydration plays a role in every single vital organ and it’s processes. Water is also vital to our tissues. The amount of water in our muscles significantly impacts our athletic performance.
We also need electrolytes for proper hydration. Electrolytes direct water to wherever it is needed most in the body, thus maintaining fluid balance in your system down to the cellular level. Electrolytes are minerals such as magnesium, potassium and sodium. Most people in sport know they need electrolytes, but aren’t aware that they are very basic minerals found in most common fruits. You’re not required to consume scientifically engineered sports drinks to get them.
If you are an endurance athlete who has completed in some organized events, you know what it is to have an upset stomach from drinking all of the sugary sports drinks throughout the event. These sugar calories and carbohydrates can overwhelm the stomach and cause distress such as cramps. I’ve seen some people vomit neon green, matching the sports drink offering at the event, due to their stomach’s final rejection of the high-sugar drink.
Here’s the trick: Neither pure water nor sports drinks alone are going to hydrate you properly. Pure water doesn’t contain a meaningful amount electrolytes and either does the off the shelf popular sports drinks. Sports drinks have more electrolytes than water, but they do not have as much as you need or in balance. There are four key electrolytes and most sports drinks just provide a bunch of sodium. Try and find magnesium in any of them; an absolutely essential electrolyte to the endurance athlete.
Mix up your hydration and include some fruits for best results. No doubt that the calories from sports drinks can help you when you are exercising, but you don’t need the full load that comes in the bottle and all the sugar in your stomach. Use a variety method. If you are going for a bike ride, make two bottles for hydration as follows: First, water down your sports drinks and keep that mix in one bottle – half water and half sports drink. Second, fill another bottle with water and add a sports supplement powder to the mix that provides significant potassium, magnesium and a little protein for good measure.
Your body is obviously quite complex. Don’t assume that an advertised sports drink really is better for you than water, as some companies claim. Nothing is better for you than water, yet, water alone won’t hydrate you optimally. Play around with some mixes until you find a way to deliver a balance of electrolytes, water and calories that makes you feel better during your workout and doesn’t bloat your stomach.