When Water is Not Enough
Your hydration for exercise needs will vary, depending on the activity, environment and personal sweat rate. Doing yoga in an air-conditioned room is less taxing than, say, a marathon in 80-degree heat. When choosing a sport drink, take a few items into consideration:
Minerals: Though sweat doesn’t look like it contains much more than water, it’s actually chock-full of essential elements your body needs. Ever been covered in a fine layer of white residue after exercising? That’s sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium seeping out through your pores! In hot conditions, you sweat more, causing an even faster loss of these elements.
Contrary to popular advice, muscle cramping is not caused by electrolyte depletion, but rather fatigue and muscle damage. However, electrolytes are still a big deal, regulating nerve and muscle function, keeping blood pressure in check, and moving waste out of the body. During and after heavy exercise in hot conditions, it’s important to take in a drink that contains these critical minerals.
FBG Recommendation: First Endurance EFS is ideal for salty sweaters and/or those exercising in hot conditions. It has one of the highest electrolyte contents available in a sport drink, while still keeping a respectable 96 calories per serving. If flavored beverages aren’t your thing, try one of the many electrolyte-enhanced waters on the market, such as Essentia Super Hydrating Water.
Carbohydrates: For workouts of one hour or less, your body will run on its natural stores of fuel. But just like a car, your fuel tank will eventually empty and will need to be refilled if you want to keep moving. Carbohydrates are easily digested, especially in liquid form, making it an ideal way to “fill your tank” on the go.
Look for a drink that allows you to take in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. It may take a few tries to figure out your ideal number within that range—some people feel fatigued if they take in too little; others feel bloated and nauseous when they take in too much.
FBG Recommendation: GU Brew and Gatorade, two beverages frequently found on race courses, provide the carbohydrates you need to fuel your exercise along with water and electrolytes for hydration. Because they are high in sugar and calories they should be limited to consumption during exercise only. Which brings us to our next important point…
Calories: A “sport drink” label doesn’t always mean it’s a healthy option. Many sports drinks are high in sugars and calories—great if you’re engaging in hard efforts for long periods of time, but not so great if you’re sitting at your desk. Check the nutrition label: how many calories are in one serving of your drink? If the caloric input of your beverage doesn’t correspond with the caloric expenditure of your workout, try to find a low-calorie beverage instead.
FBG Recommendation: Nuun tablets are a great source of electrolytes—one tablet, which you can drop into a glass of water at a restaurant or a water bottle on the go, contains all the electrolytes with only 8 calories and an added kick of vitamin C. Their new summer flavors (watermelon, lemonade, and cherry limeade) are ahhh-mazing!