When we think hydration, we often think water, but sometimes it takes more than just good old H20. The longer you’re out running, cycling or swimming, there comes a point when simply drinking water isn’t going to cut it, and you’re going to need something more for peak performance.
Here’s why: Sodium and potassium are also lost through sweating, and it’s crucial to replace these essential electrolytes, along with plenty of carbohydrates, through sports drinks. These three additional ingredients are primarily what you’re looking for, but also a small amount of magnesium and calcium are beneficial as well.
Carbohydrates burn up when you exercise more than 60 minutes, a limit determined by scientists as the maximum time that you can go without needing any additional fuel other than water. The more time you extend beyond that 60-minute mark, the more fluids you’re going to need to consume.
The average person can produce up to 32 ounces of sweat per hour. Steven Devor from Ohio State’s Food Innovation Center said runners need to drink four to six ounces of water per mile at 70 degrees, with more required for increased body weight and temperature.
Premade drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are designed with the right osmolarity, the total concentration of dissolved particles in a liquid. Having a drink within the right range for your body allows for optimal emptying of carbs and electrolytes in the gut so that they can easily enter the bloodstream where you need them. Once in the bloodstream, electrolytes can be delivered to your skeletal muscles to power you through the rest of your workout.
Devor stressed the importance of mixing any powdered beverage exactly to the recommended amount per fluid ounce because if not, it messes with that balance. This is a case where more is not better, and mixing more than the recommended amount could leave you with an ineffective product. The body needs the right balance of water and electrolytes so that electrolytes and fluid are not pulled from cells for absorption.
“Any deviation away from what’s correct can make a fairly big difference physiologically, and by that I mean getting it out of your gut into your bloodstream,” Devor said.
A newer hydration drink, Hoist, is making its way into more Columbus stores, with claims that the isotonic solution makes nutrients more readily available to your body.
“It’s basically like a drinkable IV; it honestly hydrates you faster than anything else,” said Rachel Cox, brand manager at Hoist.
The isotonic solution in a drink like Hoist is supposed to allow for electrolytes to be absorbed faster into the bloodstream.
Cox said that because many of the other sports drinks are hypertonic and too concentrated, water stored in the muscles must be released into the gut, which delays hydration.
When it comes to which type of drink you choose, it’s really a matter of preference. You’re fine as long as you’re getting a good amount of sodium, potassium and carbohydrates without adding any potentially harmful ingredients into the mix, Devor said.
It’s hard for your body to overcome dehydration if you start the workout in that state and continue to demand more with any endurance exercise. Make sure that your hydration levels are good beforehand and continue to consume the right amount of fluids throughout the duration of your exercise, especially if it exceeds an hour’s time.