Ditch the sports drink: Why water is best for hydration

 03 Dec 2015

We all know it’s important to exercise regularly. You may be surprised to learn though, that proper hydration during and after exercise is just as important.

When we exercise the main way the body maintains optimal temperature is through sweating. Sweating, while allowing heat to leave the body, also results in fluid loss. The higher the temperature, humidity or exercise intensity, the more fluid is lost.

Why should you drink during exercise?

According to Sports Dietitians Australia the rate of sweat loss during exercise is usually more than you can drink, which highlights why it’s important to start an exercise session well hydrated and to drink fluid during and after exercise. [i]

Drinking plenty of fluids while exercising helps:
  • maintain muscle function and prevent muscle cramps;
  • replace fluids lost through sweating;
  • the body regulate its core temperature;
  • minimise the risk of heat stress.
Hydration also improves exercise tolerance and enjoyment, as well as assisting in energy levels during exercise.[ii]

What should you drink?

Given the number of sports drinks on the market, it can be easy to assume that a sports beverage is the best when it comes to hydration after exercise.
However, Sports Dietitians of Australia advise that drinking plain water is effective enough to replace fluids for low intensity and short duration workouts.

All sports drinks contain three basic ingredients — water, sugar and salt. [iii]

While water is essential for rehydration, sugar and salt are not always the best choices. In fact, they often just add unnecessary kilojoules — something you probably want to avoid if you are exercising in a bid to lose weight.

When it comes to sports drinks, Sports Dietitians of Australia advise they are really only beneficial for people participating in long endurance events, such as marathons or triathlons.

For the average Australian, water is sufficient when it comes to rehydrating after sport and exercise.

How much should you drink?

There is no hard and fast rule about how much to drink when it comes to exercise. After all, everyone is different and has different needs. But you do need to hydrate appropriately.

This means making sure you are sufficiently hydrated before your workout. It’s especially important you don’t begin your workout thirsty.

Ensure you sip small amounts of water regularly during your exercise or sporting session, and continue to drink water throughout the day, according to your thirst.

One way to determine how much fluid you need to replace is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. The difference in weight is how much fluid has been lost. This is how much you need to drink to replace lost fluids.

Whatever your exercise regime, getting enough fluid is vital for your health and performance. Unless you are participating in endurance-type activities, make water your first choice.

Experience the Zip Effect. It’s easy to drink more and improve your productivity and wellbeing with fresh, filtered water on tap.


[i] Sports Dietitians Australia, FACT SHEET: Fluids in sport; last updated June 2009; accessed 19 September 20015, https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fluids-in-sport.pdf

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Choice, The science and sale of hydration, last updated 31 July 2014; accessed 19 September 2015, https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/drinks/sports-drinks-energy-drinks-and-soft-drinks/articles/sports-drinks-vs-water