Sports Drink vs. Water


Sports Drink vs. Water, which is better?

Sports drink vs water, which is better?

Woman drinking water after a workout.

“Serious heat illness is more likely to strike children, individuals who are out of shape, overweight, or have had a previous heat illness.”, states Dr. Michael Yorio, the Jacksonville Jaguars Internal Medicine Physician and Internal Medicine/Sports Medicine Physician at the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute in Jacksonville, Florida.  So, what do we do when serious heat illness occurs? Do we hydrate with a sports drink? Or is water the best solution?


Dehydration occurs when the body is depleted of fluids causing elevated core body temperature, the strain on the cardiovascular system, and increased sweat dissipation. As you become dehydrated, you expose your body to an increased risk of heat illness. Recommendations are to replace the amount of fluid lost during the activity by weighing before and after the activity or event. So do you replace the fluid lost with water or sports drinks?

The rule was always to replace with water if the activity performed was one of anaerobic nature and to use sports drinks if the activity was aerobic. You cannot rely on thirst alone to replace fluids as the thirst indicator becomes weaker as you age. A daily water intake recommendation was established as 130 oz. for males and 95 oz. for females. Water, while replacing the fluid needs, does not replace the sodium that is excreted while sweating. Water will also quench the sensation of thirst before the body achieves the proper fluid balance / re-hydration. Sports drinks with proper amounts of sodium will encourage more drinking and allow a better body to reach proper fluid and electrolyte homeostasis.

Benefits of staying hydrated

If you want to drink more, you will be more likely to achieve the recommended fluid and electrolyte levels that your body desires. Those individuals who sweat during activity should probably replenish their fluids with a sports drink to replace the sodium and electrolyte content of their bodies. Improving hydration, providing energy, and decreasing the chance of heat illness are just some of the benefits of staying hydrated during and after activity.

There is no wrong answer to the question of which you should drink, although those individuals who sweat should strongly consider a sports drink as a means of replacing their fluid loss. As long as you replace the proper amount of fluid that is lost during activity and maintain proper hydration, you will decrease the chance of injury and help stay on top of your game so that you can continue to perform at your highest level.

By: Robby Hoenshel MPT, ATC

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