When the mercury rises during the summer
months, our bodies sometimes struggle to stay cool and keep hydrated. Of
course, this is especially true during physical activities, particularly those
enjoyed outside, under the hot sun. For those of us who have considered the
better choice between water vs. sports drinks, here are a few quick facts to
provide some gulping guidance.
The Case for Water
Let’s begin with a fun fact, courtesy of The
USGS Water Science School’s,
water in you
Up to 60% of the
human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological
Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are
about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and
even the bones are watery: 31%.
Interesting, certainly, but what are water’s
primary functions within the human body? According to USGS, the functions and
benefits are defined as:
- A vital nutrient to the life of
every cell, acts first as a building material.
- It regulates our internal body
temperature by sweating and respiration.
- The carbohydrates and proteins
that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the
- It assists in flushing waste,
mainly through urination
- Acts as a shock absorber for
brain, spinal cord, and fetus
- Forms saliva
- Lubricates joints
Given these statistics, it’s easy to see how
critical it is to maintain healthy H20 levels in our bodies. But are there
specific guidelines when it comes to water consumption and exercise, especially
when you consider lost electrolytes?
According to Andrew Nish, MD, “Water, water and water should
be the beverage of choice for hydration before, during and after physical
activity or exercise routines lasting less than one hour.”
Dr. Nish believes that sports drinks are best
reserved for those engaged in extended athletic sessions (longer than an hour)
or intensive exercise. Even then, he advises that water should be the hydration
baseline, with at least 16 ounces of water consumed prior to intense exercise.
Following that intense workout session, rehydration is best achieved with
water, particularly if the participant consumed sports drinks during the
activity. Although, Nish does suggest that 8-16 of a sports drink is
appropriate, following a hard workout, as well; however, it should not be
relied upon as the primary rehydration source.
The Shortcomings of Sports Drinks
As some of you might remember, Gatorade was
introduced at the University of Florida in 1965, as a fast response to
replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates. The
problem with sports drinks, as Dr.
Nish explains is that, “These drinks were never intended to be consumed by the
general public, but unfortunately, they have been marketed to the masses with
the underlying message that if you drink these, you will become a great athlete
like Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, most people will just gain weight.”
Hardly the point of an intense workout.
In addition to the risk of weight gain, Dr.
Nish also cites sports drinks as problematic to your teeth. The high
concentration of sugar found in most sports drinks can erode tooth enamel,
leading to cavities.
Water is your winning choice.