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​Summertime Showdown: Water vs. Sports Drinks

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Summertime Showdown: Water vs. Sports Drinks

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, the 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 bloodstream
  • 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.

The Verdict?

Water is your winning choice.

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