The Best Drinks for Runners

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

If you’re a runner, you understand the importance of good hydration, particularly if you run outdoors in warm weather. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity can cause rapid overheating unless you regularly replace fluids lost through sweating. When it comes to drink options for re-hydration, the modern runner has a bewildering array of choices ranging from sports drinks to high powered energy drinks. How do you choose among the many options? What are the best drinks for runners?

Best Drinks for Runners: Short Runs

The type of drink you choose for re-hydration should depend on how long you’ll be running. If you only anticipate a thirty to forty minute jog, carrying along a bottle of plain water should be sufficient to replenish lost fluids. On such a short run, electrolyte depletion is unlikely to be an issue and you don’t need a carbohydrate rich drink since your glycogen stores should provide enough energy if you’ve eaten a healthy meal with a few hours.

Best Drinks for Runners If you Don’t like Water

If you don’t like water, you can buy flavored waters, but it’s best to choose a sugar-free one if you’re watching your calorie intake. Vitamin waters are another option, but don’t count on them to add much nutritional value. The concentration of vitamins in these waters is usually low and the vitamins probably break down while on store shelves so that they have little benefit when they finally reach your mouth. An alternative is to squeeze a little fresh orange, lemon, or lime into a bottle of plain water to make your own flavored water.

Best Drinks for Runners: Longer Runs

If you’re planning to run longer than thirty or forty minutes, replacing lost electrolytes such as potassium and sodium becomes an issue particularly if it’s warm and you’re running outside. This is the time when electrolyte-rich drinks such as Gatorade become important. A newer option is to use coconut water as an exercise drink. Not only is it a good source of potassium and sodium, but it only has around sixty calories per serving. It can now be found in many mainstream grocery stores in single use containers so you can conveniently carry it on your run. You can also drink fruit juice to replenish electrolye. Try to buy it without added sugar since fruit juice contains enough natural sugar on its own. If you want to reduce the calorie content, dilute it with a little water. One excellent choice is tart cherry juice. Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce post-exercise soreness.

Best Drinks for Runners: High Intensity Exercise

If you’ll be doing a high intensity or run that’s longer than an hour in length, take along a drink that will replenish your energy stores. A sports drink or fruit juice with twelve to sixteen grams of carbs per serving works well, but stay away from energy drinks or other beverages containing caffeine. Caffeine may slightly reduce exercise fatigue, but it’s also a mild diuretic and can cause nausea in some people. There’s also evidence that caffeine can decrease blood flow to the heart during exercise.

Whichever form of runner’s drink you choose, stay well hydrated. It’ll not only boost your performance, but also help to prevent heat exhaustion and post-exercise fatigue.

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