As the old saying goes, “The best things in life are free”, and this works on plain old hydration too. Water is one of the best, cheapest, and freely available sources of hydration. It helps quench thirst on a hot day and keeps your metabolism going.
Minerals such as sodium, potassium, and calcium are present to a certain extent in mineral water, alkaline water, and sometimes tap water. These minerals, also known as electrolytes, team up with water to keep you hydrated and healthy.
But is plain water enough for hydration?
At times, a glass of plain water isn’t enough to take care of your body’s hydration needs. Activities like endurance and, extreme sports, and extended workouts need an extra boost of hydration and energy. This is where the debate Water vs energy drinks begins!
Why hydration is important?
Before the whole we can get into an in-depth analysis of water vs. energy drinks showdown, we must first understand why either of them is significant.
Did you know that nearly 60% of your body is composed of water? Every single cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs some form of hydration to function normally.
Water is extremely important for survival too. We may survive without food, but the same cannot be said about water.
Water is everywhere in your body, in your blood, within the cells, in spaces between cells, within tissues, and organs. During your body’s metabolism, water is absorbed and then expended in the form of sweat, urine, and respiration.
This water loss must be frequently compensated. So, where does the body get all the water from? Your food and drinks of course. This process by which your body absorbs water from what you eat and drink is called hydration.
Sometimes, the food and fluids you consume may not match the water escaping from your body. This situation creates a fluid imbalance in your body, leading to a condition called dehydration.
When dehydration sets in, you will experience one or more of the following conditions:
- Increased heart rate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Decreased urination
- Strong smelling and concentrated urine
- Reduced sweating
- Muscle cramping
These signs tell you that you immediately need to hydrate. Dehydration is a sign that your body has lost water, and also vital nutrients such as minerals and vitamins.
In such situations, drinking plain water is absolutely not enough. You will need something extra in the form of carbohydrates and sugars, along with minerals and vitamins to put your body back into gear.
This is where energy drinks step in. So, what are these energy drinks? We walk you through their composition and how they help you achieve hydration.
What are energy drinks?
Energy drinks are formulated to improve your energy levels, enhance your mental alertness, and increase your physical performance. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplements next only to multivitamins.
These drinks provide functional benefits due to the presence of ingredients such as glucose or sucrose, caffeine or taurine, and additional ingredients such as inositol, glucuronolactone, vitamins, and other herbal ingredients.
Glucose and sucrose provide the carbs component, caffeine and taurine provide the much-needed energy boost, while other ingredients form the nutrient component.
Energy drinks and Hydration:
So, what is the connection between energy drinks and hydration?
Energy drinks, just like sports drinks are an excellent way of hydration especially for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. If you are one of them, you know how important hydration is.
Your muscle cells depend on water to function properly. When your body doesn’t have enough fluid levels, your body and muscles become limited in terms of power, strength, and endurance.
This review article named “Hydration and Muscular Performance” supports the importance of hydration, especially when you are undergoing extended hours of training, or performing in endurance sports.
In effect, if you aren’t hydrated enough, you aren’t getting the full benefit from your training and workout sessions.
When you spend hours participating in physical activities, you sweat a lot. According to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition, when you sweat you lose important minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. You also lose salts and nutrients also through your bathroom breaks.
When you experience excessive sweating, you also feel exhausted and experience energy loss. Energy drinks are an excellent way to restore your energy levels, hydrate you, and ensure that your body is supplied with all lost nutrients.
So, if you think energy drinks are just a hype and don’t do much for hydration, think again!
What do energy drinks contain?
Most energy drinks have the following components:
- Carbs and sugars: For an instant energy boost and flavoring
- Caffiene: For instant energy, to stimulate brain function, to improve concentration
- Electrolytes: replace lost minerals through sweat and urine and restore electrolyte balance
- Amino acids: for better post workout recovery
- Added nutrients such as vitamins: for nutritional balance
So, as you can see, energy drinks contain not only caffeine as per popular belief, but a host of other beneficial ingredients that help with instant hydration and electrolyte balance. They provide many benefits that plain water cannot.
Benefits of energy drinks:
Energy drinks have the following benefits.
- Provide an energy boost
- Improve endurance
- Enhance brain functioning
- Improve post workout recovery
- Added nutrients can provide various nutritional benefits
When to reach for energy drinks?
Generally water is the most recommended hydration drink. So when and who should drink energy drinks? We answer that question in this section.
Who: Fitness enthusiasts:
If you participate in high intensity workouts and sporting activities that last for more than 45 minutes. The caffeine content will help you get the maximum out of your workouts and help with post workout recoveries. The added electrolyte and nutrients help restore hydration and nutrient balance.
Who: Sportspersons and athletes:
If you are a marathon runner, a long distance cycler, or participate in any sporting and athletic events that last for hours, staying constantly hydrated and maintaining a proper electrolyte balance is crucial. This ensures that you don’t get exhausted mid-way, don’t get dehydrated, and perform to the best of your capabilities.
In both the above cases, you can have energy drinks in 3 stages:
- Pre-workouts or pre-event: About 30 minutes to an hour before
- During workout or events: Small sips every 20 minutes
- Post workouts or events: About an hour after
Staying hydrated in all three stages is important to avoid getting sick due to dehydration.
Who: People who sweat excessively:
Those who sweat a lot tend to lose a lot of nutrients and electrolytes. These must be replaced on time to ensure that dehydration doesn’t occur.
If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration, you must immediately reach for an energy drink with added electrolytes. It will keep electrolyte loss in check, help with fluid balance and help you fight fatigue and other signs of dehydration.
Are sports drinks better than water?
Water and sports drinks are excellent hydrators. Both of them have significance in different scenarios.
Water is the best source of hydration in the following scenarios:
- For everyday hydration: Have at least 6 to 8 glasses of water in a day
- For thirst-quenching: Feeling thirsty? Nothing better than a glass of water.
- For basic and simple workouts: Do you workout for less than 45 minutes in a day. Then water is the best source of hydration for you.
- For weight loss: Did you know drinking water is an excellent way to prevent those pounds piling up? Water keeps you feeling full and also encourages the fat burning process, also known as lipolysis according to this article published in the John Hopkins University Journal.
Sports drinks on the other hand are excellent for hydration before, during, and after high-intensity workouts, endurance sports and in cases of dehydration due to extreme sweating.
So, when should you pick energy drinks instead of water? Water is best for everyday hydration. Drink at least 2 liters of water to ensure your body’s hydration needs are met.
But when you participate in workouts, athletic events, and high endurance activities lasting more than 45 minutes, energy drinks are your best friend. Those experiencing excessive sweating can also reach for energy drinks to fight dehydration.
A combination of water and energy drinks is an excellent way to stay hydrated which means you can pick both.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick the best drink to stay hydrated and stay healthy!!