Drink Up!

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As the temperatures rise, it’s important that we up our fluid intake, especially when working out in the heat.

There are many ways to hydrate out there, and the supermarket shelves are filled with sports drinks, bottled waters, and enhanced waters to aid in that process. With all the choices, it can be a bit daunting.

How do you know when you need a sports drink to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes, and when good old H2O the best choice?

Gatorade, the most popular of the sports drinks on the market, was created to help replenish fluids and electrolytes of the University of Florida football team. An assistant coach was puzzled by the players extensive weight loss during games, (up to 18 pounds!) coupled with their lack of urine output.  In testing players, it was concluded that they were not only sweating out all of their body fluids, but also their energy and stamina were depleted, due to electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar and low blood volume. At that time it was thought that drinking during exercise was detrimental to performance. The coach consulted with experts who disagreed.
The solution was to rehydrate them with water, as well as replace some of the salt and sugar lost in the process. Lemon was added to make the drink more palatable, and Gatorade was born.

If you are working out in the heat, with the intensity of the Florida football team, than a sports drink like Gatorade is for you. But chances are, most of us are working out for shorter periods of time, in more tolerable conditions. If you are working out at a very high intensity for more than 1 hour, (think marathon training runs) a sports drink might be in order.

Remember that these drinks contain calories. The average sports drink contains 50-100 calories per serving, or 125-250 calories per container. They are very high in sodium and sugars, and are highly processed with chemical additives and colorings, found to be hazardous to one’s health.

Flavor enhanced waters can be valid choices, since the flavoring often makes us consume more than we might if faced with plain old water. These too come with artificial baggage, and could serve to delete the benefits of your hard work.

Glaceau Vitamin Water and SoBe Vitamin Enhanced Water are among the best, using natural flavors and containing about 70 calories per container. They do come in plastic bottles, which carry BPA risks of their own. While the zero calorie-enhanced waters do not add sugars and calories, they do add artificial sweeteners and colorings.

That brings us back to water. Filtered tap water served in a glass or metal water bottle is almost always the best choice for replenishing before, during and after a workout.  Guidelines for athletes suggest 15-20 oz. in the 2-3 hours leading up to a workout, and 8 oz. about 15 minutes before. It is suggested to drink another 8 oz. for every 15 minutes of exercise, and to consume 8 oz. of a sports drink for sessions exceeding 90 minutes. Experts suggest weighing yourself before and after a very strenuous workout, and drinking another 20 oz. of fluid for every pound lost.

Be sure to tailor this to your size and activity level, to avoid discomfort during training.

Adding your own flavorings to tap water can make the drink a little more interesting, and still maintain it’s stellar health status.

Try adding a squirt of lemon or lime to your bottle, or toss in ice cubes with berries other fruits frozen into them. Mix up a de-bloating pitcher of spa water (previously featured here) or try this recipe via Men’s Health for a healthy, homemade sports drink:

DIY Sport Drink:

Dissolve ¼ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt in ¼ cup water.

Add ¼ cup of orange juice or other 100% fruit juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 ½ cups of water to the mixture. Chill and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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