While battling the summer heat, whether it’s at a weekend barbeque, a run through the mesa, or a shopping trip down State Street, we often find ourselves in need of a cold beverage to cool off. When it comes to staying hydrated, our choices are endless with the abundance of bottled waters and sports drinks. So why are so many of us not staying hydrated properly? Though hydration is of course a vital issue all year long, we tend to be reminded of its importance when the August sun beats down on our backs and our mouths are continuously parched. Hydration affects everyone, regardless of if you spend your days lounging at the beach or training for a triathlon. Surprisingly, however, the majority of the population is not drinking enough liquids throughout each day.
W. Larry Kenney, professor of physiology and kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, claims that many adults do not regulate their hydration appropriately. Many of us rely on the sensation of thirst to signify that it is time to have a beverage, but according to Dr. Kenney, that just isn’t enough. The sensation of thirst is only felt when our bodies reach a fairly significant loss of fluid and change in sodium level. This is especially true of older adults, since as we age, our thirst sensation is even weaker. Prolonged sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea are factors that often contribute to these alterations and contribute to dehydration.
Dehydration is a result of the body’s failure to replace fluids and electrolytes lost during physical activity. This can lead to heat dissipation,
increase in body temperature and strain on the cardiovascular system. In order to avoid dehydration, it is imperative that adults ingest fluids before, during and after exercise. In order to maintain a normal body temperature and also maintain cardiovascular function, athletes and other active adults need to replace fluids roughly at the rate at which they are lost through sweat. To gage just how much you need to drink, simply weigh yourself before and after your workout. If there is a decrease in your weight, you need to drink more. More generally speaking, a sedentary adult male would need to drink about 3.7 liters a day and a female, about 2.7 liters, in order to stay hydrated while more active adults could need up to 10 liters a day.
Alright, you say. We know that staying hydrated is important. But, just which is better for me: water or sports drinks? Well, that all depends on your level of activity. Assuming that you are an active person, you probably require a drink that will replace your fluids as well as carbohydrates, electrolytes, and sodium efficiently. In this case, your drink of choice should be the sports drink, namely Gatorade or PowerAde. Gatorade openly proclaims itself to be superior to water in many ways. The most obvious is its flavor- researchers at Gatorade maintain that its sweet flavor makes drinking Gatorade enjoyable and keeps people drinking. Therefore, it re-hydrates more completely than water.
Carbs have recently been getting a bad rep, but during an intense workout, carbohydrates are the primary fuel to keep the body going. In addition, drinking carbohydrates during a workout saves your body from having to burn stored protein, that is, your muscles, for energy. While flavored waters also add sugars and nutrients, Gatorade and PowerAde claim to be the only beverages that contain the perfect balance of carbohydrates (6-8%) to keep you hydrated, and not inhibit fluid absorption.
Arguably the most essential benefit of sports drinks is that they contain more electrolytes, or sodium, than water. The extra little 110mg/8oz of sodium in Gatorade is what keeps replenishes the body’s water and keeps fluids in the body, unlike water which turns on your kidneys to stimulate urine production.
Though all of these factors benefit us greatly at the gym, it’s a different story when we’re working in the office or relaxing at home. While hydration is just as important outside of the gym, it may be healthier to choose water or juice to keep you hydrated during the rest of the day. Juices are often healthier than sports drinks as their sugars are natural. For those of us watching our caloric intake, water lacks the calories that other drinks contain, thus making it more appealing to those watching their weight. And, as they are only beneficial in strenuous workouts, the added electrolytes in sports drinks don’t have much of a place in day-to-day life. Therefore, the amount already present in water is enough for low-key activities. In addition, water also contains helpful minerals such as zinc, sulfates, calcium and nitrates.
Water, sports drinks, juice, and fruit all provide the hydration your body needs in their own way. A variety of sources is good for a healthy diet, just choose wisely the place and time that you are ingesting each beverage, depending on your level of activity. For more tips on hydration, visit the Gatorade Sports Science Institute at www.gssiweb.com.