The weather is getting hotter, which means staying hydrated during exercise becomes increasingly important. The amount you need to drink during exercise is extremely variable depending on individual sweat rates. However, while how much you drink is important, so is what you drink.
If you’re exercising for less than an hour at a relatively easy intensity, then water should be the appropriate fluid in most situations. However, if you’re exercising for longer periods of time or at high intensity such as stop and go sports like soccer or football, fluids with carbohydrates should be considered. Besides providing the body with a fuel source, carbohydrates added to fluids will also promote water absorption in the intestine and hence, aid in hydration.
While carbohydrates can help promote water absorption, the amount of carbohydrates in the fluids need to be considered. Fluids containing too much carbohydrates may actually worsen dehydration as they cause water to be drawn into the intestine, which can also lead to gastrointestinal distress. To prevent this, aim for fluids with a carbohydrate concentration of less than 8%, such as sport drinks and avoid fluids with concentrated carbohydrate sources such as fruit juice and pop during exercise.
Another thing to consider is the electrolyte composition of the fluid. While there are many different electrolytes, the key electrolyte to look for is sodium. Sodium helps to stimulate the absorption of both water and glucose in the intestine. There is a lot of debate over how much sodium should be in fluids. Drinks such as juice and pop will have little sodium to enhance absorption, while sports drinks will contain sufficient amounts of sodium. Oral rehydration solutions will have an even more optimal amount of sodium. However, with too high a sodium content, drinks start to become unpalatable.
Finally, consider the taste of fluids consumed. The thirst mechanism is not very sensitive and will not stimulate drinking behaviour until some degree of dehydration has occurred. By choosing a fluid that you like the taste of, you will be more likely to consume more of it. If it’s hot outside and it’s practical, consuming a cold fluid can also help lower body temperature.
Make sure you’re not only drinking enough, but also choosing the right fluid to help promote hydration during exercise.
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