How does your drink measure up?


By Kelsey Herrick, RD, CSSD, LRD

Staying well hydrated is important for athletes to gain a competitive edge because hydration status has a large impact on both performance and recovery. Fluids in the body assist in regulating body temperature, help blood to pump freely, deliver fuel and oxygen to muscles and clear out waste Herrick_Kelsey-2products.  Athletes should arrive at workouts well hydrated.  Losing as little as two percent of body weight through sweat can impair an athlete’s ability to perform due to a low blood volume and less than optimal utilization of oxygen and nutrients.  Drinking enough fluids to keep urine pale and lemonade in color rather than apple juice color indicates good hydration status.  Athletes should remember to drink early and often during exercise, but don’t over-drink, and know which drinks are appropriate for what kind of exercise.

Sports drinks

Why it can be a good choice: Sports drinks have a concentration of 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate which is an amount that maximizes fluid absorption and carbohydrate digestion.  This makes sports drinks a good option for exercises lasting over 60 minutes.  After an exercise, sports drinks help to rebalance electrolytes and increase the amount of fluid ingested.  Sports drinks are designed to deliver carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids in a way that will minimize stomach upset and maximize absorption for delivery of energy to muscles.  Sports drinks also taste great which encourages us to drink more.

When do we need it?  If you are training for >60-90 minutes, choose a sports drink to help replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and provide a quick energy source.  Also if you are participating in multiple events on the same day or competing in hot/ humid conditions a sports drink can be a good option.

What to be aware of: Avoid drinking sports drinks throughout the day; keep in mind the calorie content per serving.  Sports drinks also provide little other nutrition.


Why it can be a good choice: The best fluid to consume is water.  Water is a great choice for all day hydration and during shorter workouts.

When do we need it?  Water should be consumed throughout the day, during training and at meal times.

What to be aware of:  Water does not contain any electrolytes that we especially need replaced after long, hard workouts.  Also, if you don’t like the taste of water, you might not drink enough.  Try adding fruit, lemons, limes, herbs like mint or even cucumbers to your water to increase your intake.


Why it can be a good choice: Juice is a good source of carbohydrate that fuel working muscles.  It also provides us with vitamins and minerals, but make sure you pick 100% juice when at the store.

When do we need it? Juice is generally not a good fluid choice during exercise.  Juice can make a great pre and post workout drink.  If it tastes too sweet, juice can be easily diluted.

What to be aware of: The carbohydrates in juice are too concentrated to use during a workout, which could slow absorption and could also cause stomach discomfort.  Also, keep the serving size in mind if you’re watching your calorie intake.

Coffee Drinks

Why it can be a good choice: There is some evidence that caffeine may enhance performance in endurance and speed athletes.  Caffeine does not appear to increase weight loss but it may delay fatigue and improve mental sharpness.  Moderate levels of caffeine, which is the amount in 2-3 cups of coffee, are acceptable especially if you are used to that amount.  Larger doses of caffeine can have a diuretic effect.

When do we need it? Caffeine in high amounts is a banned substance by the NCAA.  For most athletes, more than 500 mg right before competition may result in a positive test.  If you choose to have caffeine, have some about 1 hour before competition and adjust your timing based on your experience.  Tolerances vary from athlete to athlete.  As a caution- know what you are putting in your body as some products do not disclose the caffeine content.  They may also have additional additives that could impair your performance.

What to be aware of: Caffeine tolerance varies between individuals.  It can cause side effects like jitters, irritability and anxiety.  Also, if your coffee drink is your favorite specialty drink with whipped cream, flavorings and other extras, being aware of calories and dietary fat is important if you’re watching your waist line.

To develop a tailored hydration plan to fit your needs, meet with a Sanford sports dietitian!  Click here for more information on meeting with a sports dietitian near you!