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Sara Pindera
Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. A Canadian with a love of food, fitness and health. https://www.youtube.com/c/msmaddhatt/

How Water And Sports Drinks Can Help Improve Your Fitness

Stay hydrated and perform better

Everyone knows that drinking water is important, but most people still have trouble staying hydrated, especially those who are physically active. Being dehydrated can increase the speed of exhaustion and decrease overall progress and performance.

Sports drinks have become popular because of their emphasis on electrolytes and their supposed ability to supercharge your workout by preventing exhaustion and other symptoms stemming from dehydration -- but do you really need them, or are they just added sugars slowing you down?

We will teach you what you need to stay on top of your hydration game.

  • Helps control body temperature.
  • Maintains blood volume.
  • Helps with digestion and digestive health, clearing waste.
  • Helps with proper neuron function, especially in muscle function.
  • Cushions organs and joints.

The more percent body mass of water you lose, the more severe the dehydration symptoms. Temperature control goes down, heart rate goes up, muscle performance and strength decreases as well as hand eye co-ordination and blood volume

You don’t have to be exercising hard or in the heat to lose body fluids, so it’s important that everyone drinks enough water, but the more intense your exercise and the hotter it is (either inside your uniform or the environment), the more fluids you may lose.

How much water do we need?

8 cups, right? Not quite. Surprisingly, depending on our gender and activity level you may need even more than 8 cups of water! A quick search will reveal that ideally, women should actually be drinking approximately 2.2 Litres (9 cups) and men should be drinking closer to 3 Litres (12 cups) to stay healthy and hydrated!

  • Keep a large, reusable water bottle with you at all times (Even better if it has measurements on the bottle showing you how much you’re drinking!)
  • Keep a full glass of water in areas of your house where you spend a lot of time, like the living room or your bedroom
  • Drink a glass of water or something hydrating with every meal, when you wake up and before you go to bed.
  • Drink whenever you are thirsty. Don’t ignore it!

You can drink more than just water to get to this total, but you want to be careful hydrating with other liquids, as they may include other unnecessary things like salt and sugars.

Fruit and vegetable juice can be good as long as it’s 100% real fruit, and not just a cocktail of added sugars. Aim for more vegetables, as they are higher in fibre. Milk should be low in fat (Less than %2), and coffees and teas are fine, though coffee should be limited to roughly 3 cups a day, and tea to 4 cups.

Pop or soda should be limited because of the high sugar and calories, and though soups can be hydrating, they also tend to be high in sodium.

Sports drinks and exercise hydration

There are a surprising amount of people who drink carbohydrate-infused (electrolyte-filled) sports drinks, even when they aren’t exercising. Do the added carbohydrates in sport drinks actually do anything, or is it all just a scam?

There is actually solid evidence that sports drinks infused with carbohydrates DO help to replenish lost carbohydrates and hydrate those who are physically active, but only under certain circumstances.

If you are doing moderately intense exercise for longer than an hour, or high intensity training or are exercising in a hot environment for less than an hour then sports drinks may be right for you. If outside of those guidelines, water is your best option since any small amount of lost nutrients will be replaced in the diet, and are not urgently required.

If you are training intensely through multiple days, or sessions in the same day, sports drinks may help speed your recovery by quickly replenishing lost carbohydrates and nutrients.

Drinking 2-3 cups of water or sports drink an hour before exercise and then replenishing lost fluids within 2 hours after exercise are the best times to drink for someone who is very active, though you should also be siping water often during exercise!

Here's a full body workout:

In summary

Keeping hydrated is a big deal, especially when you’re very active in your daily life!

Let’s review some of the important facts about water intake and sports drinks:

  • How hydrated you are can greatly affect your body temperature, blood volume, and digestion, as well as your strength, stamina and coordination when exercising.
  • Men need roughly 3 litres (12 cups) and women 2.2 litres (9 cups) of water daily to stay hydrated.
  • You can get liquids from different sources like 100% fruit or vegetable juice, low fat milk, coffee, tea, and soups.
  • Sports drinks are useful for moderate exercise over an hour, and for more high intensity exercise or exercise in a hotter environment for less than an hour.
  • Drinking 2-3 cups of water or sports drink an hour before exercise and replenishing lost fluids within 2 hours after exercise can also be beneficial.

Stay hydrated, stay strong and focused on your goals!

References:

  • Dieticians of Canada. (2014). Guidelines for Staying Hydrated. dieticians of Canada. Web. 29 Sept.2015.
  • Kenefick, R. W., & Cheuvront, S. N. (2012). Hydration for recreational sport and physical activity. Nutrition reviews, 70(suppl 2), S137-S142.
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