What Drinks Are Best for Athletes?

With all of the sports drinks saturating the beverage market, perhaps you’ve questioned what the differences are among them or which are the best for athletes. While they all seem to claim their own health “benefits”, researchers at sports medicine schools and many professional athletes seem to think that keeping it simple is key.

Nothing is better than water.

Our bodies are comprised of approximately 70-percent water. When you work out, you sweat and you lose water concentration. It’s important to drink enough water before and during a work out to maintain energy during the work out. Not only does water transport oxygen and glucose through your body, but water also helps to maintain flexibility and strength within your muscles as well as keeping your joints agile and lubricated.

While you might be attracted to the wide variety of flavors in juice or sports drinks, these types of beverages might actually hinder a workout. Drinks with high sugar content will actually cause your body to become dehydrated and make you thirstier.

It’s likely you’ve heard the advice that it is important to try and drink a least eight glasses of water a day. In order to avoid dehydration, if the weather is really hot or you are increasing your workout, you should try to drink more than eight glasses per day. The more you sweat the more water you’ll need to replenish and stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause your head to ache and decrease your energy. These are early warning signs of dehydration, which you should try to avoid at all costs.

Another drink that may not be given as much attention as water but that can be very beneficial to athletes might come as a surprise: Chocolate milk. A study by physiologist Joel Stager, director of the Human Performance laboratory at Indiana University reports that drinking chocolate milk after rigorous exercise can help recharge tired muscles by providing carbohydrates and aid towards post-workout recovery.  The carbs and protein found in chocolate milk give your muscles something to metabolize and offer significant health benefits, especially to athletes.

However, be careful because if you just finished a workout or had a practice, water is just fine. Drinks like chocolate milk and gatorade are more meant for recovery after more rigorous exercise or a more prolonged length of time (like after a full day of games). Your best bet is to choose water.

Check out this additional resource on planning ahead to help with muscle recovery: https://hvmn.com/blog/training/muscle-recovery-essential-to-your-next-workout.

About Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a frisbee ambassador and motivational speaker who holds 6 Guinness World Records, 13 World Championships, and the Canadian Distance Record. He created ultimaterob.com in 2009.

7 thoughts on “What Drinks Are Best for Athletes?

  1. The 8 glasses of water a day myth has been debunked. It was made up and then repeatedly cited.
    Also, how does sugar dehydrate you? It’s not obvious to me why that would happen. A lot of nutritional “science” is garbage, hearsay, or just not rigorously tested (see 8 glasses of water or latic acid build up).

    1.  @ArielJackson Ariel, this article was provided by a 3rd part. I agree with the general points although I don’t endorse chocolate milk. I stay away from dairy completely but there are many athletes who drink chocolate milk and they find it useful.
      For a regular daily drink, water is best, there is no question on that. For any sort of exercise that is one hour or less and not too rigorous, water is best. For anything longer, and especially during ultimate tournaments, rehydrating with an electrolyte drink like the Vega drink powders or Gatorade, that will help you prevent cramping, stay hydrated and performing at your best.
      I also like taking magnesium pills which I’ve found help prevent me from cramping on the Sunday of a tournament, especially when it’s hot out and I’m sweating a lot.

    2.  @ArielJackson About your question related to sugary drinks and how they can dehydrate you, the theory is that the caffeine in soft drinks is a mild diuretic so it actually will dehydrate you.

      1.  @ultimaterob Who’s talking about soft drinks? I don’t think anyone is drinking coke during ultimate games or workouts. Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) don’t have any caffeine, and even if they did, it still wouldn’t dehydrate you. Yes, caffeine is a mild diuretic, but even in coffee, the amount of liquid you take in when drinking it is more than you lose from the diuretic effects. So I still don’t see how sugary drinks would dehydrate you.

        1.  @ArielJackson The theory behind it is that when you consume sugary drinks, it raises your heart rate, your digestive system pulls nutrients from your vital organs to help digest the sugar, thus putting stress on your system, which leads to fatigue, creates an acidic environment in your body and that can lead to dehydration.
          Also, alcohol and sugar only differ by one molecule in their chemical makeup so sugar can have many of the same effects that alcohol does.
          In any case, sugary drinks aren’t good for you. Electrolyte drinks yes. Sugary drinks no.

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