Water vs sport drinks

Hydrating before, during and after exercise is key in helping your muscles function at their optimal level. There is much discussion amongst fitness fanatics as to whether water or sports drinks are the best way to hydrate. Read on to find out once and for all which beverage you should be reaching for.

Why hydrate?

When exercising, your body loses minerals and fluid through sweat in an attempt to cool the body down. If these fluids are not replaced, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration impairs your body’s ability to maintain peak performance levels. Feeling thirsty isn’t necessarily a good way to determine how much fluid you are losing. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated and your performance is waning.

So water or sports drinks?

It all comes down to the intensity level of the exercise you are participating in and how much fluid you are losing through sweat.

Generally, for low intensity exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, water is the way to go. However this can be altered depending on the temperature of your environment. For higher intensities or high sweat workouts, it is important to replace lost glucose and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium and potassium) in addition to fluids. In order to replace these lost nutrients and maintain peak performance, a drink that contains carbohydrate and electrolytes is needed. This is where sports drinks come in. Sports drinks do provide the necessary ingredients for your body to rehydrate BUT they also tend to contain large amounts of unnecessary sugars and are high in calories. Believe it or not, latest research has indicated that low fat milk is actually a better way to rehydrate post exercise than both water and sports drinks. Milk contains the magic combination of natural electrolytes, carbohydrates, water and the added benefit of protein. This extra protein aids in quick muscle recovery – win! This doesn’t mean you should stop drinking water while exercising but it is a good idea to consider switching to milk instead of high sugar sports drinks.

Milky alternatives

If guzzling down milk during or post workout doesn’t sound appealing, try eating a dairy snack instead. Eating dairy post exercise will help you to still benefit from the recovery benefits of milk. Think of snacks like Greek yoghurt, cheese salad wraps or ricotta on toast.


Written by Perri Simon

SiSU Wellness Nutritionist



Roy, B. D. (2008). Milk: the new sports drink? A Review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5, 15. http://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-5-15