In most cases, water is a better choice than a sports drink when you're thirsty, an expert says.
"Sports drinks shouldn't take the place of regular water intake," Brooke Schantz, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics at Loyola University Health System in Illinois, said.
"Yes, [sports drinks] will help hydrate you, but the average healthy child, adolescent and adult doesn't need the extra carbohydrates and calories that come with consuming these sugary beverages," she explained.
Because they contain carbohydrates, sports drinks such as Powerade can be beneficial during long workouts. People who exercise for one hour or more should consume between 30 grams and 60 grams of carbohydrates - the body's main energy source - to help maintain blood sugar levels. Most sports drinks contain 4% to 8% of carbohydrates.
"Consuming these beverages during exercise that lasts more than one hour can aid in hydration and help provide needed energy to hard-working muscles," Schantz said.
She offered the following advice to clear up confusion about what to drink and when to drink it.
Choose water while sitting on the couch; while doing a three-mile run or bike ride; or while sitting at your desk studying or working.
Choose a sports drink when you're physically active for more than one hour; exercising in extreme environments, such as severe heat or humidity, the cold, or at a high altitude; if you have not had a high-quality pre-workout meal to sustain your physical activity; or if you are a wrestler or participant in another sport where you limit your energy intake prior to a weigh-in.
How much fluid do you need?
The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition offers fast facts about sports nutrition.
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