Do Sports Drinks Really Fuel Your Body Better than Water?

Whether you were a star athlete in school, or prefer to get your sweat on during a yoga class—it’s likely that you’ve wondered “will a sports drink enhance my performance or hydration?” With so many brands and flavors available, toting different benefits like electrolyte and vitamin replacement, deciding whether to incorporate sports drinks into your workout routine may introduce added confusion. Here’s what the experts say.

Bring on the sports drinks when:

You’re participating in exercise for one hour or longer. At this duration, your body begins to deplete its store of carbohydrates and electrolytes* necessary for athletic performance. Sports drinks can replace these lost nutrients, and supply carbohydrates as energy to fuel your workout. If you choose a flavor that encourages you to sip consistently, you’re also more likely to stay hydrated.

*Electrolytes are minerals like magnesium, sodium, and potassium, that affect the amount for water in your body and blood pH level (3).

Stick to water when:  

You’re doing light exercise, or exercising for less than one hour. Otherwise, the sports drinks you consume may contribute excess carbohydrates and calories. At this duration and level of exercise, the body does not lose enough electrolytes to require replacement. Sports drinks don’t provide additional hydration. So keep your water handy for yoga, walks in the park, or quick, lunch-time cardio.