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Should You Drink Water or Sports Drinks?

You’ve seen so many commercials for sports drinks, such as Gatorade. They all claim to be better than water when you exercise. You may wonder if sports drinks are worth the money when you could just drink tap water. You may even want to know which is the healthier option.

The answer can be a little complicated. If you want to know what your best rehydrating option is, keep reading. This blog will explain the advantages and disadvantages of sports drinks and when you could just drink water instead.

What Do Sports Drinks Contain?

Sports drinks have three main components that set them apart from water: flavoring, sugar, and electrolytes. Each can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the situation.


Flavoring often helps athletes because they enjoy it and it helps them drink more. When you exercise, sometimes you forget to drink enough. Generally, your body will tell you if you need more water by making you feel thirsty, but if you don’t like the taste of your water, you may ignore that feeling. When your drink is flavored, you’ll drink more sooner, which means you’ll prevent dehydration.

However, this flavoring often comes with a price-it’s often full of sugar.


Sports drinks can have a lot of sugar in them-some have 150 calories or more, which translates to about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Excess sugar, especially when dissolved in liquid, is terrible for your teeth, and your body does not need the extra calories.

Generally, sugar does not help your performance as an athlete, either. Carbohydrates, including sugar, can make it more difficult for liquid to absorb into your body. Consequently, sugary drinks may make you slightly more likely to be dehydrated, though the risk is small.

However, if you’re exhausted after a long run, a little bit of sugar may help you recover. Though experts disagree, some do think that a moderate amount of sugar after exercising can help your body restore itself.


Electrolytes are sports drinks biggest benefit. When you sweat, you don’t just lose water. You also lose minerals called electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which help regulate your muscles. Your muscles contract because of electric pulses.

Electrolytes are given this name because they conduct these electric pulses. If you don’t have enough electrolytes, your muscles may not contract strongly enough, and if you have too many, they may contract too strongly, or cramp.

Electrolytes also help you retain water. If you drink a lot of plain water, your body often lets it pass through your system quickly so you don’t dilute the electrolytes in your blood too much. If you drink something with electrolytes in it, the liquid stays in your system longer and even absorbs into your body faster.

Should You Drink Water or Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks have their pluses and minuses. You don’t need the empty calories, but you may need the electrolytes, or maybe you just like the flavor. When you should use sports drinks and when you should drink water depends on the situation.

Before Exercise

Before you begin exercising, your body probably has the right amount of electrolytes. You don’t need sugar to recover, and you shouldn’t be dehydrated. Water is a great choice.

During Exercise

While you exercise, you don’t want to put sugar into your bloodstream since it may make it more difficult for your body to absorb water. However, you may sweat, especially if it’s hot. While water is a good choice, you could add a little table salt or an electrolyte tablet to it. You could also dilute a sports drink with water to get the benefits of electrolytes without so much sugar.

If you tend to not drink enough water while exercising and would like it to taste better, just add flavor to your water. Adding lemon or lime juice may make your water more appealing.

After Exercise

Depending on how hard you’ve worked, how long you spent, and how much you sweat, you may want a sports drink after you exercise. The sugar and the electrolytes can be helpful. However, if you want to get the same benefits but without the extra sugar, drink water and eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable. The natural sugars and electrolytes in the plant can restore your body’s balance just as well as a sports drink.

To sum up, sports drinks may be helpful when diluted with water during exercise and possibly after exercise. However, water is always a good choice if you look after your electrolyte needs in other ways, like eating more fruits and vegetables.

If you want to drink more water but you don’t like the taste, reach out to Johnson Water Conditioning. Our experts can find out what’s in your water that’s bothering you, like excess minerals, and can find a treatment or filter to correct the problem.

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