These days, drink holders on the treadmills look like the beverage refrigerators at your local convenience store, filled with a variety of flavors and colors. All these choices may leave you feeling a bit confused about what you should be drinking during your workout. While water is your best choice for exercise hydration, sports drinks and energy drinks have their place.
Not getting enough to drink before, during or after you exercise can affect your workout. Dehydration causes your muscles to tire more easily, affecting both strength and coordination. Also, if your body is dehydrated it cannot cool itself properly, which can lead to heat exhaustion. If you want to get the most out of your workout, drink up to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before you exercise, 8 ounces about 20 minutes before you start, 8 ounces every 20 minutes during your exercise routine and 8 ounces when you're done.
When it comes to what to drink, the American Council on Exercise says water is the best choice for most people. Not only is it fairly inexpensive -- free from the drinking fountain -- but it's also calorie-free. When you're exercising to lose or maintain your weight, calories from what you drink count. Some people have a difficult time drinking water because of its lack of taste. If it helps you to drink up, the American College of Sports Medicine says it's OK to drink flavored water. You can keep flavoring inexpensive and calorie-free by adding lemon, lime or cucumber slices to your water bottle.
If you exercise at a high intensity for a long time, 60 minutes or more, you may be better off with a sports drink than just plain water. Intense workouts cause you to sweat more and lose essential electrolytes, namely sodium. If your blood sodium levels get too low, it can lead to water intoxication, which can cause disorientation and even coma and death in severe cases. Some sports drinks also contain carbohydrates for energy and should be taken into account if you are monitoring your calorie intake.
Energy drinks contain a number of different nutrients purported to improve mental and physical ability. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, it is the carbohydrates and caffeine in these drinks that are most beneficial to an exerciser. Drinking an energy drink 10 to 60 minutes before you work out can improve your focus and endurance. It is important to note, however, that the additional calories in these drinks can lead to weight gain. If you're concerned about your weight, there are lower-calorie versions available. Do not drink more than one energy drink a day.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Hydrate Right
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Exercise and Fluid Replacement
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand - Energy Drinks
- Practical Gastroenterology: Water Intoxication - Considerations for Patients, Athletes and Physicians
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