Precision Nutrition: Water or Sports Drinks?

We often get asked what is the best type of hydration for outdoor sports. Is water enough? Are sports drinks really necessary? The research behind Gatorade, the original sports drink, was done on marathon runners in the heat and humidity of Florida summers. It was found after 90 minutes in these tough conditions that Gatorade’s mixture of sugar and electrolytes (what your body loses when you sweat) was absorbed faster than water. So sports drinks do work. Let the buyer beware, though. Most people will not reach that level of electrolyte depletion in a cooler environment like we have here in Vancouver. Moreover, not many sports last longer than 90 minutes. Another consideration: most sports drinks have food coloring and high-fructose corn syrup, two things we would rather not put in our bodies. If you want to replenish your electrolytes, you can now buy them without the processed sugar and chemicals. Craig recommends Elyte, which only consists of electrolytes. It comes in a dropper bottle, so it’s very portable and easy to add a couple drops to your water bottle. A small eye dropper-sized bottle of Elyte costs $4-6 and makes 20-30 servings of electrolyte-enriched water. Compare that to $2-3 for a sports drink that probably has more sugar than you need, and it’s a win-win situation. You can take electrolytes prior to or during your event to make sure that you’re not electrolyte-depleted. Another healthier alternative to sports drinks is young coconut water. Coconut water is naturally rich with electrolytes. The Brazilian national soccer team has relied on this for years playing in humid South American qualifying tournaments. You can find it either in tetrapaks or cans at most grocery stores – two of the most common brands are Vita Coco and Zico.

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