When it comes to choosing the best drink after a workout to quench your thirst and rehydrate there are several options to choose from. The most obvious choice for a healthful drink is water; however, if you want to help your body recover faster after a workout, or when you need to sustain your fluid levels during an intense, long-term workout, you need to drink smart.
Let’s take a look at some of the differences in hydrating and rehydrating with water, sports drinks such as Gatorade, and one of the most touted natural health beverages on the market today, coconut water.
We all know that our bodies are largely comprised of water and that we need a healthy and pure source of water to drink each and every day in order to sustain life. Staying hydrated when you are exercising is necessary to regulate the temperature of the body in order to prevent overheating, which can be dangerous, even damaging, to the body. Proper hydration also helps control the body’s blood volume due to fluid loss from sweating and respiration. If one is not adequately hydrated, he or she can experience fatigue and a substantially impaired athletic performance. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is critical to stay hydrated before, during and after engaging in an intense workout session. They recommend drinking two cups of fluid before training, half to one cup every 15-20 minutes during the exercise session and approximately two cups of fluid for every 0.5 kilograms that one loses in weight during the exercise period.
You Don’t Need a Sports Drink
According to the experts, you don’t need to use a sports drink if you are only engaged in light activity and short-term workouts. Water will rehydrate you just fine. After approximately one hour of working out you need to be concerned about replacing electrolytes that are lost through sweating. After this time your body starts to lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, primarily. Keep in mind that sports drinks contain calories, whereas water is calorie free.
Coconut Water vs. Gatorade
Another drink that has been questioned as a suitable electrolyte replacement is coconut water. This beverage has a long history of being consumed in tropical locations, and it has been highly praised for its health benefits. This water comes from the young coconuts – not from the mature brown nuts – that are green in color and offer fluid (not coconut milk) that is low in caloric value. One cup of the young coconut fluid contains 46 calories, 600 mg of potassium, 250 mg of sodium, and nine grams of carbohydrates. The caloric value of young coconut water is significantly lower than Gatorade but higher in electrolytes. The young coconut juice also offers amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Studies have shown that coconut water can rehydrate just as effectively as a sports drink such as Gatorade; however, the juice must be from the fresh nut. Store-bought varieties of coconut water only have on average a sodium level of less than 44mg per one cup; therefore, the main problem with using commercially packaged coconut water as a rehydration drink after intense exercise is that it does not contain enough sodium to adequately replenish the body’s levels. To summarize, the packaged young coconut water that is more accessible to most of us, is a beverage that is lower in carbs, far higher in potassium (which is beneficial as many people are lacking in potassium), but much lower in sodium than Gatorade.
Which to Pick?
After comparing the benefits of using water, Gatorade and coconut water, we can see that there are times to use each of these fluids for optimal health and rehydration. Water is needed by everyone and is healthy to drink at anytime. When exercising at low intensity, you will be fine to drink water for rehydration or drink commercial coconut water for a small amount of carbohydrate and electrolytes, as well as to intake other health promoting substances. When exercising for more than one hour of intense exercise, your drink of choice should be a formulated electrolyte drink such as Gatorade.