Adequate fluid consumption and staying hydrated is crucial to athletic success. Dehydration can cause significant health problems for athletes ranging from muscle cramps to increased blood pressure, lightheadedness, and even fainting, and even slight dehydration (as little as 2% dehydration) has been shown to produce statistically significant decreases in athletic skills (such as shooting ability for basketball players), along with reduced time to exhaustion.
Therefore, consuming the right drinks for hydration for athletes can make or break their success in competition or training. With all the marketing behind various “hydration drinks”, it can be extremely difficult to understand what you should be drinking for hydration and what is just marketing.
In this article, I will break down the role of hydration for athletes and which hydration drinks for athletes are the best!
How Much Should an Athlete Drink to Remain Hydrated?
Considering the fact that everyone is different, there are no exact rules for how much water an athlete should drink while exercising.
First, it is important to understand that hydration is a constant process within the body that flows from hypohydration (dehydrated), euhydration (being hydrated), to hyperhydration (overhydrated). Due to that, athletes need to be drinking fluids consistently throughout the day, with a specific focus on their fluid consumption directly before, during, and after training sessions or competitions.
Also, there are certain factors that you should consider while thinking of how much water is required including your sweat rate, the humidity of the environment, your heart rate, how long you have been exercising, and how strenuously you are exercising.
According to the American Council on Exercise, the following guidelines were suggested for drinking water before, during, and after training:
- Drink 17-20 ounces of water, 2 to 3 hours before you commence your workout.
- Drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes, during training or exercise.
- Take 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you commence your exercise, or during your warm-up.
- Drink 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes of your workout being completed.
Athletes need to measure the quantity of fluid they lost during their workout to get a better measurement of how much water they should drink. A general rule is to consume 16-24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight that was lost from sweating.
This can be done by simply weighing yourself before and after training, and it is a generally good habit to develop if you believe you have trouble with properly hydrating yourself.
Related Reading: What to Do After a Workout?
How Does Caffeine Affect Hydration Status?
Caffeine has a diuretic effect on the body, but the source of your caffeine consumption plays a critical role in whether consuming caffeine impacts your hydration status or not.
First, drinking coffee or tea does not have a significant effect on your hydration levels.
A 2014 study on the level of hydration of coffee drinkers showed no variable change in overall hydration after switching from 3-6 cups of coffee per day to water (Killer et al, 2014). Similarly, another study concluded that drinking black tea demonstrated no significant differences for hydration levels than drinking water (Ruxton & Hart, 2011).
However, consuming energy drinks or pre workout supplements that are extremely high in caffeine can promote dehydration and hypohydration (Alsunni, 2015).
If you are going to consume caffeine, be mindful of the amount of caffeine you consume and the source of your caffeine consumption. If you are drinking coffee or tea, you probably don’t have to worry about becoming additionally dehydrated. However, if you are consuming energy drinks or high-caffeine pre workout supplements, you may want to consume a bit more water.
Related Reading: The Best Coffee for Weight Loss
What Are the Best Hydration Drinks for Athletes?
One of the biggest issues for many athletes is that there are many “hydration drinks” on the market, and it can be difficult to determine what is actually beneficial to consume and what is simply a waste of money. Fortunately, determining the best hydration drinks for athletes is relatively easy.
Although I hope this doesn’t really need to be explained, alcohol will not serve as a good way to hydrate. There are a lot of great drinks for hydration out there, and vodka or beer do not count!
With that being said, here are the best hydration drinks for athletes:
Drinking water is essential for our health, and in most scenarios, it is the best hydration drink for athletes.
Most men and women should drink two liters of water a day, or more. With the amount of water we lose through sweat, urine, exhaled air, and intestinal contents, we remove an average of about 2.5 liters per day from our bodies.
If you are an athlete who is sweating a lot, you are losing even more. To replace that loss of water, the overall best hydration drink is water.
Some people buy bottled water, but it is much cheaper and more convenient to drink it straight from the tap. Assuming you live in an area where tap water is clean and drinkable, drinking tap water is an excellent idea for many reasons.
For starters, by buying bottled water, we contribute to the production of environmentally harmful plastic waste. If you have safe tap water, you can always have water from your own tap in a glass or reusable bottle. The more often you drink tap water instead of bottled water, the more of a beneficial impact you are making on the environment.
Furthermore, tap water contains minerals that are very important for the body’s functioning.
Contrary to common opinion – minerals do not occur only in mineral water. Their optimal amount can also be found in tap water.
If you are considering drinking tap water as the main hydration source for yourself, a faucet water purifier can increase the amount of tap water you are consistently drinking because you will have unlimited clean drinking water. Even if you feel that your water is fine for drinking, you’ll probably be surprised by how much better you feel when you drink tap water through a sink faucet purifier.
There are tons of options for the best sink faucet water purifier. You could install a system that costs thousands of dollars, or you could buy a simple sink faucet purifier for $50 or less.
Assuming you are interested in purchasing a budget-friendly faucet water filter, I believe the best option is the PUR FM-3700 Advanced Faucet Water Filter. The PUR FM-3700 Advanced Faucet Water Filter is certified to remove 99% of lead from your water, and reduce over 70 other contaminants! This sink water purifier uses both an activated carbon filter and ion exchange to reduce contaminants. Along with that, it also contains a patented MineralClear core which provides a better taste!
If you’re going to purchase a faucet water purifier, I suggest the PUR FM-3700 Advanced Faucet Water Filter:
- FAUCET WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM – Enjoy refreshing, filtered water from your faucet with the PUR...
- REDUCES 70 CONTAMINANTSȽ – This PUR PLUS drinking water filtration system is certified to reduce...
- EASY TO ATTACH – The faucet mount water filter is easy to attach – no tools are required....
- COMPATIBLE DOES NOT MEAN COMPARABLE – Genuine PUR faucet mounted water filters are the only...
- #1 SELLING BRAND IN FAUCET FILTRATION** – Contaminants can enter your water system daily, so...
Sports drinks that contain carbohydrates, (not above 14 grams per 8 fluid oz.) and electrolytes (such as potassium and sodium) can prevent dehydration better than water alone and are necessary for certain situations.
However, you should strongly consider your training regiment or dietary needs before beginning to consume sports drinks regularly. Due to their carbohydrate content, regular sport drink consumption can provide unnecessary calories and may not even provide additional hydration benefits for athletes.
If you are exercising for over two hours in hot or humid climates and are a heavy sweater, you can consider drinking a sports drink that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes. When considering hydration, sodium is the most important electrolyte, so make sure your sports drink contains a substantial amount of sodium. Potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate play a role as well, but these do not compare to the importance of sodium for maintaining hydration status.
Birch Tree Water
Ever heard of birch tree water? Well, it is one of the best hydration drinks for athletes!
Birch tree water is one of the best hydration drinks for athletes because it contains small amounts of amino acids, large amounts of antioxidants, and very large amounts of magnesium and manganese per serving. Not only is it a unique rehydration drink, but it can also can help with improving overall health and athletic performance in a variety of different ways.
One of the negative aspects of birch tree water is that it does not have a high sodium content. However, birch tree water has an extremely high magnesium content, which makes it excellent for preventing muscle cramps.
If you don’t know where to buy birch tree water near you, you can purchase it from Amazon:
- Birch water is pure birch tree sap. It is a genuine, 100% natural living water that people in rural...
- It's exactly what it sounds like. Similar to the process of tapping maple trees, birch trees can be...
- Naturally, birch water stimulates the cleansing systems of the body, kidney and liver functions, and...
- It is an ecologically pure, 100% natural refreshing soft drink ideal for sportsmen during workout or...
- Ingredients: Birch sap (97.24%), Sugar, Citric acid
Coconut water is one of the most heavily marketed hydration drinks for athletes, and it does have multiple beneficial properties.
Coconut water has become a popular choice as a rehydration drink, but it contains only minimal amounts of sodium, compared with larger amounts of sugar and potassium. Therefore, when consumed as a primary beverage, there are many risks for athletes who are losing a lot of fluids through sweating.
A specific issue relating to the intake of coconut water as a primary beverage for individuals exercising in a hot and humid climate is hyperkalemia, which has even resulted in death for an individual who was relying on coconut water as a primary hydration beverage (Hakimian et al., 2014). Hyperkalemia is a condition where potassium levels in the blood increase when compared to sodium and other electrolytes.
Coconut water has a place as a beneficial beverage since the taste is well tolerated and it is a source of fluids, but it should not be relied on as a primary rehydration beverage due to its potential to offset the critical electrolyte balance of the body and its general lack of sodium content (Saat et al., 2002).
Cold-pressed juice is another rehydration drink for athletes that should be considered. The primary advantage of cold-pressed juice for athletes is the consumption of vitamins and minerals along with fluids.
There is also a wide variety of fruits and vegetable juice you can drink, and drinking fruit and vegetable juice do provide enough vitamins and minerals that it contributes to healthy fruit and vegetable recommendations (Benton & Young, 2019).
For example, you could choose to drink watermelon juice, which is rich in amino acids, and L-Citrulline which helps in reducing post-training muscle pain or soreness.
Other cold-pressed juices boost the energy levels of athletes enabling them to perform at their best. For example, beetroot juice.
Beetroot juice provides dietary nitrate, and the primary effect of dietary nitrate is that it reduces the oxygen demand of exercise. Therefore, consuming beetroot juice means that muscles need less oxygen to maintain their given work rate, while also improving exercise efficiency, increasing fatigue resistance, and improving exercise performance.
There are many other beneficial cold-pressed juices as well. However, you are going to need the best juicer you can buy if you want to get the most out of your cold-pressed juices. There are a lot of juicers on the market, but only a cold-pressed masticating juicer provides the best quality juice.
So, do some research, find a quality juicer you can trust, and get juicing!
See Also: Benefits of Juicing Once a Day
If you are interested in trying an even more innovative hydration drink, CBD water is an excellent option!
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant, and nanotechnology has allowed companies to produce CBD water.
CBD water, such as the one produced by CBD Living, is an excellent drink for hydration in numerous different ways.
Feel free to check out my CBD Living review to read more about cannabidiol itself, and the benefits of CBD water for hydration!
Concluding Thoughts – Hydration Tips for Athletes
Even though water is the primary hydration drink for athletes, sports drinks, juices, and different types of natural water can be incorporated before, during, and after training to maintain fluid balance in the body.
I hope this article was helpful for any athlete looking for the best hydration drinks, and please let me know if you have any questions!