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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jordan Quint

Water vs. Sports Drinks

Why water outperforms sports drinks during exercise

During exercise, you want to achieve optimal health so drinking sufficient amounts of plain clean water is vital reach this goal. It’s important for athletes, as well as anyone who exercises, to get proper hydration during their routine. In the event of high-intensity exercise and strenuous activities, your body needs plenty of pure water. Your body sweats out electrolytes and minerals during the intense activities, and you need to replenish them. This is the time when you need to find a good rehydration drink with little sugar.

To replenish your electrolytes, you may automatically reach for a pre-bottled colored drink from a store. These drinks get a lot of media hype, but can be highly toxic to your health. To find the proper rehydration drinks, try making your own first. Recipe listed at bottom.

Drinking Water Before and After Exercise Is Vital

As you know, pure water is essential for your survival, regardless of your activity level. If you are an athlete or exercise regularly, however, you must get your fluid-replacement issue right to avoid the possibility of becoming dehydrated.

But, you need to make sure you don’t overhydrate. As a general rule, "drink to thirst." Severe dehydration can be life threatening, mild dehydration is also pretty problematic and can cause cramps, headaches, irritability and impaired cognition. If adequate hydration isn’t there, it will most definitely affect your sports performance and diminish the effectiveness of your workouts.

A lack of proper hydration during exercise diminishes blood circulation, which can make muscles cramp up. If you've ever had them during exercise, muscle cramps can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. Keep in mind changes in your potassium and sodium levels due to sweat loss may also contribute to cramping.

Although you may be tempted to drink sports drinks before your workout to boost your energy, or afterward to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes, you're better off skipping them due to the massive amounts of sugar and other harmful ingredients they contain.

Coconut Water Is a Powerhouse of Natural Electrolytes

Did you know coconut water is one of the best rehydration drinks? Coconut water is particularly beneficial if you engage in activities resulting in profuse sweating (i.e. Tennessee summer months). You can drink it plain or add citrus juice — such as lemon, lime or orange — for flavor. As a result of the rich volcanic soils and mineral-rich seawater in which coconut palms grow, coconut water has nutritional benefits which are quite impressive. Coconut water is:

  • Rich in natural vitamins (particularly B vitamins), minerals and trace elements, including iodine, manganese, selenium, sulfur and zinc

  • Packed with amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, organic acids and phytonutrients

  • A powerhouse of electrolytes and natural salts, especially magnesium and potassium

  • Light, low-calorie and low in sugar, but pleasantly sweet

  • Full of cytokinins, or plant hormones, which have anti-aging, anti-cancer and anti-thrombolytic effects in humans

Coconut water also has an alkalizing effect on your body, which can help correct the cumulative effects of the acidic foods popular in most Western diets. For all these reasons, and more, coconut water is a great choice for post-exercise rehydration.

Photo Credited to Penn State University


Here’s a popular recipe for making your own:

Lemon-Ginger Electrolyte Drink This recipe makes 2 glasses. Start with your choice of one quart of liquid for the base, which could be:

  • 1 4-inch piece ginger, peeled

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 2 teaspoons raw honey

  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt or Himalayan salt

  • 2 3/4 cups coconut water


  1. Finely grate ginger, and using a flexible spatula, press solids into a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Discard the pulp. You should have about 1 tsp. ginger juice.

  2. Combine ginger juice, lemon juice, honey and salt in a large measuring cup of bowl. Stir in coconut water.

  3. Pour the drink over two glasses filled with ice.

NOTE: You can make this drink a day ahead. Cover and chill, and stir vigorously before adding the coconut water.


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