Hydration & Sports Drinks – What You Need to Know

Drink Up, Bitches!

by Briana Eruren

Me: Briana, don’t call them bitches. That’s not nice.

Briana: You added that, didn’t you.

Me: Busted. Carry on.





Our body’s need for water is far greater than any other nutrient, and as you probably already know, water makes up around 60 percent of an adult’s body weight.  The human body depends on water for all of its life supporting activities! If this need is not met or too much water is lost our well-being will be compromised. Feeling thirsty and fatigued is the first sign of dehydration and can happen when you have already have a water loss of only 1-2 percent of your body weight.

For reference, a person could collapse with a water loss around 7 percent.

Our bodies’ need for water varies depending on many factors such as activity, environmental temperature, diet and humidity. Therefore a general water requirement is hard to establish. A general water recommendation for an athlete – and an infant! – is 1.5mL per calorie expended.  (An easier estimation could be around ½ cup per 100 calories expended).

A good hydration schedule for a physically active person could look something like this:

  • Drink 2 – 3 cups of fluid 2 or 3 hours before activity
  • Drink another 1 – 2 cups 15 minutes before activity
  • Drink ½ – 1 cup every 15 minutes during activity – the goal here is to drink enough water to minimize loss without over-consuming
  • After activity, drink 2 cups for each pound of body weight lost

Now what about those tasty sports drinks?! What’s not to love about them, right? (Except the price!)

You would be surprised at how many young children I see drinking Gatorade who are not partaking in physical activity. (Some are even too young to walk!) Advertisements make sports drinks seem like a great alternative to water. However, they should not replace water. Water best meets the fluid needs of most people, and if you are consuming a regular diet that meets your energy and nutrient needs, the electrolytes lost during physical activity will be replenished without sports drinks.

When Should You Drink Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks may be needed for strenuous or competitive activities that last longer than an hour. They provide simple sugar or glucose polymers that help maintain blood glucose and hydration. They will deliver fluid, electrolytes, and carbohydrates that may enhance endurance and performance. However, for a moderate exerciser, these drinks could have an adverse effect if weight loss is the goal because most sports drinks contain 50-100 calories per 8 oz, and since glucose is a sugar, it provides empty calories (just like candy).

The carbohydrate amount in sports drinks can be tricky and most contain around 7% carbohydrate. A drink with less than 6% carbohydrate may not enhance performance, and more than 8%could cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and nausea. So there’s a fine line between helpful and harmful.

Sodium and other electrolytes in sports drinks are used to help replace the ones lost during physical exercise. The sodium helps to increase the fluid absorption rate in the GI tract. Most people do not need to replace the minerals lost during physical activity immediately, and if a meal is eaten within a few hours of loss, the needs will be met.

Sports drinks can be great in certain situations but are not necessary for daily activities.  Make sure you are using them in a way that will be beneficial to you and your work out plan.

But If You Must….

Now if you do plan on using sports drinks, might I suggest you make your own? Check out the recipes posted by everydayroots. This site has some fabulous homemade electrolyte energy drink recipes that will save you big $$$$$! I tried the one called “Lay-Low” which calls for fresh-squeezed lime juice and lemon juice, water, sea salt, and honey. It was fantastic! Give one a try and let us know what you think!



Briana Eruren graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Science with a concentration in Dietetics accredited by ACEND (the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics). She served as President of the Student Dietetic Association at the UofA from 2012-2013 and received an Outstanding Officer Award. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the Arkansas Alumni Association. Some of her recent research includes The Use of Home Blenderized Tube Feedings for Children and How Honey Effects the Wound Healing Process. In her free time she enjoys cooking, baking, art (often combining the three), and spending time with her rescue dog, Sophie. Feel free to contact her at beruren@gmail.com

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