Whether you’re playing a game of football, taking part in a track and field meet, or are simply out exercising, it’s extremely important to stay hydrated. Water has been the standard refreshment of choice for centuries, but modern supermarket shelves are filled with many other options for the thirsty athlete. Various brands of flavored water and sports drink all purport to do a better job than plain old water at keeping the body up and moving, but is this really the case?
When you exert yourself physically for a long period of time, you lose water, largely in the form of sweat. You also burn glucose, also known as blood sugar. Your blood sugar level is a good indication of your potential energy level. Blood glucose is to the body as gasoline is to a car: you burn it at a rate directly related to how much you’re moving around, and once you’re low on it, you’ll have to refuel. Thus, just as you refuel your car periodically when the tank meter gets low, you must every so often refuel your body with sugar and water.
Water is a natural choice for the athlete to keep up and running, and indeed, it is one of the supplies you should always have with you while exercising or competing in a sport. As your body loses water, you’ll need to keep replacing it, otherwise dehydration will occur. Dehydration can be a serious danger, especially while exerting yourself outside in hot weather.
Always have enough water to keep you hydrated. If you’re running, you may only be able to carry a 16 or 20 ounce water bottle, but this is sufficient. If you’re competing in any kind of sports match, you might have access to a cooler of water on the sidelines for the team, but make it a habit to keep your own water bottle nearby as well.
While water is a must to have around in order to stay hydrated, it will not restore your blood sugar level. To keep your glucose level up, bring a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade along with you. These drinks contain glucose, as well as sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes that are spent by the body in the course of lengthy, strenuous exertions.
While sports drinks are not an absolute requirement to keep hydrated or fueled, they do help restore much-needed minerals in a convenient package. Sports snacks such as Powerbars are also extremely useful as quick sources of energy, and they pack enough nutrients in a small enough volume that you won’t run the risk of cramping as a result of eating them.
Some people choose to drink various brands of flavored water while on the field or the road, perhaps the most popular of which is Vitamin Water. While drinks such as Vitamin Water do contain important vitamins (hence the name), they do not contain any of the electrolytes that sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade have. Moreover, some brands of flavored water contain a small amount of caffeine.
While caffeine is a stimulant, it is also a dehydrating agent, so if you’re trying to restore water to your body, you should avoid it. At best, flavored water is just as useful as unflavored water at rehydrating the body. Unless you really need your water to have a particular flavor, you’re better off simply bringing a bottle of filtered tap water from home.
No matter what you choose to drink on the field or the road, however, never forget to stay hydrated at all times. It can be easy to underestimate the amount of water you need while exerting yourself, but if you do, you’ll be putting your body at serious risk.
Written by A. Kaddoura
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