Water or Sports Drinks? Maybe Both

Whether working out together or alone, one should always make sure to be properly hydrated.


We are lucky here because if we exercise outside, generally we don’t experience extreme temperatures like the heat of Las Vegas or the cold like Chicago. However, regardless of our pleasant environment it’s important to keep your body hydrated whether exercising indoors or out.

The general recommendation given by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is to drink 16-20 ounces of fluid four hours prior to exercise, then 8 to 12 ounces 15 to 30 minutes prior to exercise. Then drink 3 to 8 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.

You should weigh yourself before and after your workout and you should drink 20 to 24 ounces of fluid per pound of weight loss. If you are casually working out in a climate controlled environment, you won’t lose as much body weight in comparison to someone working in a non-climate controlled environment like football practice.

The question always seems to come up, which is better: water or sport drinks? I would like to present some information that pairs water and sports drinks as a complementary partnership instead of on opposing sides.

Water is the most natural way to hydrate the body. Water is life and our body responds well when we properly hydrate with water.  

Sport drinks have some manufactured advantages that make them an appealing option for hydration as well.

First, sport drinks have a flavor which may entice you to drink more during exercise. Sport drinks also have electrolytes in the drink which is designed to replenish the body of the lost electrolytes during physical exertion. Sport drinks also show some performance advantage during prolonged workouts. ACSM suggests that sport drinks may be a good option when exercising for longer than 60 minutes (i.e. aerobics class or sport practice).

However, sport drinks are not necessary hours prior to performance. They contain an increased level of sugar and sodium your body does not need at rest. It’s best to just drink water as you are preparing for exercise. For the casual exerciser, sport drinks may not be necessary at all.

In addition, you should be drinking water throughout the day. It’s not a good idea to guzzle a water bottle and then go run four miles. Slowly sipping water and replenishing the body gradually is the best way to properly hydrate before an exercise bout or physical activity.

In order to utilize the positive effects of water and sport drinks, one should consider hydrating with water prior to a workout and drinking a sport drink during and after an exercise routine lasting more than 60 minutes.