The Cincinnati Ben-Gals have been practicing since May and are ready for our season to start!  We usually practice in the Paul Brown Stadium gym but as the season nears, we begin practicing out on the football field.  We love being out on the field, however, in the summer heat, staying hydrated can be an issue.  What is the best option for a beverage in high heat while exercising?  Water or Sports Drink?  Definitely a sports drink in high temperatures.  Why do sports drinks hydrate better than water?  There are four main reasons.

First, sports drinks are absorbed through the GI system faster than water.  This is because sports drinks contain dissolved minerals, such as sodium, and carbohydrates.  These minerals and carbohydrates are also in blood in similar concentrations and therefore make is easily to be absorbed compared to plain water.

Secondly, sodium and other nutrients in sports drinks help regulate fluid balance in the body.  This means the nutrients help the body determine how much fluid enters the muscle fibers and other cells and how much remains in the blood.  Again, because sports drinks contain these minerals in higher concentrations than plain water, the sports drinks do a better job of allowing the body to maintain optimal fluid balance and therefore may help you maintain or improve your performance.

A third advantage of sports drinks over water is that the sodium contained in the sports drink stimulates thirst.  Athletes will usually drink more of a sports drink than water which means better hydration overall.

Finally, sports drinks contain calories from carbohydrates that have been shown to increase energy and endurance, reduce exercise-induced muscle damage, and promote faster recovery.

When choosing a sports drink, choose one that contains at least 15 milligrams of sodium per ounce.  New research suggests sports drinks containing a small amount of protein may also hydrate better than non-protein containing sports beverages.  Studies are showing protein act in a similar manner as sodium and carbohydrates when absorbed into the blood.  And an additional advantage of protein is it can aid in fluid retention, a much needed benefit with prolonged sweating.  When a beverage is too dilute, like plain water, it tends to pass quickly through the bloodstream to the bladder so the blood doesn’t get too dilute.  Protein in a drink can help reduce transit time.

Additionally, some newer sports drinks contain minimal to zero calories.  Be sure you analyze what type of exercising you will be participating in before choosing your drink.  If you are engaging in high intensity exercise in high heat, a regular calorie, protein/sodium containing sports drink should be your first option.  The carbohydrates will provide you with that added energy boost you will need with such high exertion and the minerals will help you maintain fluid balance.

Water is by far the most popular choice of fluid among exercisers, however, sports drinks do a better job of actually hydrating the body.  Water is a great drink of choice when not working out, but during exercise you’re much better off with a sports drink.  Cheers!