My school-aged son is heading a field trip tomorrow. It is warming up here in Dubai, and parents are discussing what to pack for their children to sustain them through lots of activity and warm weather.
One mom asked if we should pack anything else other than water for the kids to drink.
“Are sports drinks more hydrating than water?” she asked.
This was my response to the common question of whether it’s better to drink sports drinks during exercise:
I’m all for everything in moderation, but when it comes to hydration, water is best.
There is some new interesting research on sports drinks that was done at Stanford a few years ago (not currently published online, but can be viewed in the print issue of the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine).
It concluded that the sugar in sports drinks is actually more dehydrating than helpful, so the electrolytes they contain do not make any helpful difference to hydration, sodium levels or physical performance.
Sugary drinks force your body to move water into the GI tract, and out of your blood and muscles, to facilitate digestion. Research into the benefits of sugar-free sports drinks are still inconclusive, and there are a few brands of sports drinks that are just electrolyte powder.
In cases where there’s a need for extra hydration due to endurance sports or heat, it is best to start drinking more water in the days before the event.
So as much as possible, push water as the main hydration option, especially for children.