With so many thirst-quenching options, plain old water may seem rather pedestrian. But water is less expensive and more readily available than any other beverage. It’s also calorie-free for those watching their weight. While tap water may seem less pure than bottled, it’s often subject to more stringent safety regulations and is generally more mineral-rich. But drink whichever you think tastes better to ensure you drink enough. Just remember that water won’t refuel your carbohydrate (energy) reserves or replace electrolytes lost through sweat.
The carbohydrate-electrolyte-fluid potion that Gatorade launched back in 1965 has since spawned an entire beverage category based on the theory that athletes need more than just water during strenuous aerobic exercise in order to stay properly fueled and well hydrated. Ideally, sports drinks have a six to eight percent carbohydrate concentration (14 to 20 grams of carbs per serving), which allows them to be absorbed by the body up to 30 percent faster than water and provide a steady stream of carbs to restock spent energy stores. They also contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium, minerals that are lost through sweat and important for fluid retention.
Some runners–particularly weight watchers–avoid sports drinks because they contain calories. That’s a mistake, says Suzanne Girard Eberle, a sports dietitian and author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. “When you’re training long and hard, you shouldn’t minimize your caloric intake. Don’t work against your body while you’re asking it to perform.” Besides, research indicates that consuming carbohydrates during exercise may suppress appetite later in the day.
Drink It … On runs over 30 minutes. Sports drinks are ideal before, during, and after such workouts. Runners bored by the taste of water may also want to experiment with sports drinks during shorter runs. But make sure you experiment with enrgy drinks before race day. They don’t always agree with a runners digestive system. Some don’t taste nice and can be very sickly. They work out at about £1 a gel. Get a selection and try out on your training runs and then get the brand that suits you best. Some need to be taken with water while a minority can be taken without. But in London with frequent water stations this shouldn’t be a problem.