Summer is in full swing and hopefully you’ve adapted your exercise routine to take advantage of the beautiful weather. One way to stay healthy in the sun is to make sure you’re staying hydrated. A lot of myths have grown up around this issue of hydration, mostly planted by the purveyors of sports drinks whose business is to convince you that without their sugar laden products you probably would keel over from dehydration in the middle of your workout. Even if you’re on to their game, you should know the truthful basics about hydration — what should you drink, how much should you drink, are sports drinks your best choice, do they enhance performance as you may have heard. Remember, your brain is 80 percent water. If you become dehydrated, your brain as well as your body will be affected. This has a profound effect on your overall focus and performance.
The answers are much simpler than you might imagine.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) once published the results of a hard-hitting investigation of the claims made for sports drinks. Researchers examined advertising for sports drinks and found a whopping 431 performance enhancing claims for 104 products. When they looked into the references for those claims, they found no evidence to show that sports drinks benefit the average person, although the researchers conceded that these commercial concoctions might be worthwhile for elite athletes. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that sports drink makers have been trying to convince the exercising public that we should “stay ahead of thirst” or that you may not drink enough to restore your body’s fluid balance after a workout.
Not to worry. Here’s the investigation’s bottom line on those issues: thirst is a reliable trigger of the need to drink during exercise (as long as you don’t ignore it). In other words, when you’ve been sweating through your exercise routine outdoors or in the gym, you’re not going to keel over from dehydration.
The trouble is, many people are not attuned to paying attention to thirst signals. This can be especially problematic when exercising in the sun. But this doesn’t mean you need sugar filled drinks to rehydrate! Water is enough to do the trick for most people. The general rule is to drink half of your weight in ounces. For example: If you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of water. But if you suffer from insulin resistance, a heart condition, or you are an extreme athlete, pay attention!
The investigation also knocked down the notion that dehydration is a constant danger for marathon runners, much less the average fledgling athlete: it found that no marathon runner has ever died from dehydration — there is always plenty of water and other liquids freely available along the way. Of course, you need to stop and drink it!
The BMJ investigation also busted the myth that the color of urine accurately reflects hydration (it doesn’t) and the one holding that you should drink before you feel thirsty (wrong again). All told, the BMJ investigation is made up of seven separate articles exploring the issues and science (or lack of it) surrounding sports drinks.
All that said, unless you are an elite athlete or go in for intense exercise you can safely rely on water to stay hydrated and rehydrated during and after exercise. You don’t need sports drinks. Read the labels. You’ll see sugar prominently listed (right up there with water). And then there are all those chemicals. Do you really want to drink that stuff?
Sports Drink Recipe
Here’s a recipe for a sports drink suggested to me by a cardiologist friend for extreme athletes and people who suffer from insulin resistance or heart conditions. If you are insulin resistant or have a heart condition, please check with your physician before you try this. Here’s the recipe: mix the following nutrients into 24 to 32 ounces of water:
- 1-2 teaspoons ribose (depending on weight and exercise duration)
- 1 teaspoon magnesium citrate
- ¼ teaspoon taurine
- ¼ teaspoon carnitine
- 1 teaspoon branch chain amino acids
- ½ teaspoon creatine
- Optional— 1 scoop protein powder, plant based (This is good for intense or long workouts, and to increase energy and stamina)
If you don’t need a sports drink and you don’t like the taste of plain water, find a healthy additive to make your H2O tickle your taste buds. It should be something that isn’t filled with sugar and artificial coloring. One of my favorites is Brain Boost On the Go*. It has theanine, B vitamins, organic berry extract and stevia.
Enjoy the summer. Get some exercise. Sweat. Drink water. Have fun.