Sports drinks have been around for decades after the medical team for the University of Florida Gators created Gatorade in 1965. Of course they really didn’t go global until the 90s, but since then they have become a staple to athletes, both professional and personal, the world over. The commercials for sports drinks always talk about how they’re vital to staying hydrated during a strenuous workout and do more than water to hydrate the body, but do they really? The simple fact is yes, they really do hydrate better than water.
Water is good for keeping hydrated as you sweat and tax your body and it may be the right choice for less strenuous workouts such as a walk around the neighborhood or a friendly game of basketball on a lunch break. However, if you are doing serious workouts such as running a few miles, playing an aggressive game of football or pumping some serious iron at the gym, water may not cut it. The simple fact is that water lacks the sodium that your body needs to be able to absorb and hold onto the hydration during an aggressive workout. Sports drinks on the other hand are perfectly balanced with water, electrolytes (sodium) and carbohydrates to help you stay hydrated and full of energy when you are working your body in double time.
The beauty of sports drinks is that they taste good rather than the slightly blah taste of water, making you far more likely to keep on drinking throughout a medium to high intensity workout. However, it is important to not just chug a drink during a workout whether it is water or sports drinks because an excess of water in the body can signal the kidneys to block the anti-diuretic hormone known as vasopressin which helps you to hold the water instead of feeling the need to urinate.
When it comes to water versus sports drinks the rule of thumb should be that water is good for everyday use and light workouts and sports drinks are good for medium to high intensity workouts. The right sports drinks have between 13-19 grams of carbohydrates to boost your energy during the workout and between 80-110 grams of sodium/electrolytes to help you keep hydrated and retain the hydration throughout the workout.