When you are exercising hard, proper hydration is crucial for comfort, performance and safety.
The longer and harder you exercise, the more important it becomes. A loss of as little as 2% of your body weight from sweating can lead to a drop in blood volume, forcing the heart to work harder in order to move blood through the bloodstream.
Dehydration leads to fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination and muscle cramping. In order to stay hydrated, many people turn to sports drinks. But do you know what's in them, and indeed whether or not you need them?
Most sports drinks contain a 6% to 7% concentration of carbohydrates, in addition to sodium, potassium and other carbohydrates. More crucially for many people, the flavour encourages people to drink more. So while water should always be the number one drink of choice, sports drinks certainly have their place.
You should consider using sports drinks if:
- You are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. For workouts over 90 minutes they are essential.
- Your workout is intense or occurs in hot, humid conditions.
- You find it difficult to tolerate water.
- You haven't eaten for a while.
- You are doing multiple workouts in a day (triathletes for example).
There are also several things you can do to keep yourself hydrated on a permanent basis :
- Eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet - fresh fruit and vegetables are especially good for keeping you hydrated.
- Drink plenty of fluids between exercise sessions - plain water or drinks WITHOUT sugar, caffeine or alcohol).
- Drink water before you exercise.
- Drink every 15 minutes during exercise.
- When working out keep a drink close at hand.
- So drink up - you'll look better, feel better, and be in better health.