Water vs Sports Drinks – The Showdown

Speaking to seasoned runners and those who partake in large volumes of exercise leads to, almost inevitably, how they prefer to keep hydrated during their workouts.

I have found two distinct schools of thought, the traditionalists who swear by water, and those who prefer the high tech side of sports drinks. There is almost nobody who falls in the middle.

Both methods of hydrating carry their benefits and detractions, and although I have not really developed a preference yet, I can see a few cosmetic positives and negatives of each. Water, for example, is free, easy to obtain at pretty much any time, and freely flows in gyms. Furthermore, it does ‘feel’ more refreshing, and it can be used to spray your face or pour over your head in times of significant heat. Sports drinks, on the other hand, do feel like they improve performance, giving a little drop of easy access energy, carrying salts for replenishment too. Taste of sports drinks is overall better, but they can be a little sticky, particularly on the throat if you are suffering from less than perfect condition.

Scientifically, I am not qualified to give a rundown, but this post at SocialPace easily lists the chemical benefits of each. It is important to recognise the difference between energy and sports drinks, which differentiate easily – one provides hydration, the other provides energy. Avoiding caffeine and carbonated drinks as well as alcohol can help to prevent dehydration, as these all all diuretics. Triathlete-Europe and The Guardian have tips and tricks on how to decide what is best for you, and how to best hydrate at specific times.

Furthermore, determining which type of sports drink is best for you can make all the difference. Whether it is isotonic, hypotonic or hypertonic, the choice is important as it determines whether the drink maintains the same level of hydration or increases hydration in the body.

There is also the opportunity to fine tune your perfect drink by taking the best bits of both and producing your own! You can find the perfect taste and adapt your recipe for different workouts and perfect the taste with very little work.


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