How should you keep hydrated during exercise?

When should you hydrate with a sports drink versus water? A common misconception is that consuming a sports drink will always improve your performance. This is not always the case. A sports drink may actually impact your performance negatively if you are consuming them unnecessarily. For the general, moderately-active population, water will do just fine.

So when should you be consuming a sports drink?

  • If you are exercising vigorously for greater than 60 minutes a sports drink is recommended.Sports drinks will provide you with an electrolyte replacement to replenish those lost in fluids (e.g. in sweat).
  • If you are a heavy sweater (>1L/day) you will have greater fluid losses and benefit more from consuming a sports drink.
  • Participating in exercise in hot humid conditions (e.g. hot yoga)
  • If your exercise involves wearing sports equipment (e.g. hockey equipment/football gear). Heavy equipment can lead to higher sweat losses and decreased ability for the body to cool down.

So… If you are one of those who needs to consume a sports drink, what should you look for? 

  • When reading the ingredient label, water should be the first ingredient.
  • The sports drink should contain between 460-690 mg Na/L. Sodium (Salt) is an electrolyte that is lost in your perspiration/with fluid during exercise.
  • Ensure it contains carbohydrates (sugars). A sports drink should contain less than 80g/CHO/L. This amount will maintain blood glucose (blood sugar) levels at normal and prevent it from dropping (hypoglycemia). A drop in blood sugars (hypoglycemia) leads to feelings of fatigue and will not allow you to optimally perform during your exercise. Try to look for sports drinks with natural sugars (e.g. avoid high fructose corn syrup).

In 240mL (~1 cup) of a Sports Drinks, you should look for: 

  • 14-15g of carbohydrates
  • 110 mg of Sodium (Na)
  • 30 mg Potassium (K) – another electrolyte that is lost in fluids.

I generally recommend that if you are looking to loose weight to choose water as a hydrating source versus a sports drink.


Hydrate Right!


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Published by Brooke Bliss, BScFN, RYT-500

My name is Brooke Bliss. I am a yogi, traveller, and food enthusiast. I am a graduate of Western University's B.Sc. Honors Nutrition & Dietetics program and a 500-hour certified yoga teacher. I love to share my healthy, whole-food recipes, nutrition facts, yoga and lifestyle tips. Thank you for stopping by my page. Namaste :)

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