The summer heat gets to us all, and we know that drinking fluids is how we can prevent overheating. But what is the right drink to beat the heat? Nutrionist Romer Estrada explains.
Just a few days ago, I was extremely vexed by the amount of sweat dripping on my body from the mid-day heat I experienced while having lunch at home. Upon checking the house thermometer hanging on our wall, I was appalled to see that the temperature has already reached a staggering 36 C- a point shy from our normal body temperature.
Since it’s officially summertime, and it’s only prudent to expect warmer days ahead, I decided to tackle the hydration questions that I usually get come this season. And one of those is, “Which among water, sports drinks, and energy drinks is best to avoid dehydration?”
Let’s see what dehydration means first.
Dehydration is the mild loss of BOTH water and electrolytes in our body. Electrolytes might ring a bell for a lot of us when talking about dehydration, but we usually associate dehydration with just water loss. Ions like potassium and sodium are important in maintaining the physiological functions of our body, such as nerve and muscle function, acid-base balance, etc. Now that we know that there are practically 2 losses experienced during dehydration, let’s proceed.
Here are the characteristics of each drink that will help us in deciding what’s best for hydration:
Water has ZERO calories. It’s available almost everywhere, and is easily accessible to anyone who wishes to, or must quench their thirst. It’s important to keep ourselves hydrated in a steady manner especially if our body has only just enough water in store. However, when it comes to electrolytes, its components are not enough to hydrate us when we need more of it, especially when we do strenuous activities and are drenched in sweat because of the intense summer heat. Therefore, water is important in maintaining our hydrated state just on a fine, chillax day.
Just to clear some usual confusion, sports drinks, in comparison to energy drinks, do not have caffeine, have far lesser sugar, and therefore, lesser calories. Comparing now to water, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have higher amounts of electrolytes making it perfect for maintaining the water and electrolytes balance in your body during higher intensity activities and prolonged sweat excretion in a hot day, which water can’t supply instantly. However, it is not advisable to use it as a replacement to water because of the other nutrients that it has. Say, added sugar and sodium in your body, other than the food source might put you in excess. So drink water on a fine day, and sports drinks when exhausted, doing strenuous activities, or spending prolonged time in extreme heat.
Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and Sting are not really used to replenish lost fluids in the body. In fact, as the name implies, its primary purpose is to give you sudden burst of energy through a good supply of simple sugar and caffeine. It can even promote dehydration since caffeine is a diuretic, which makes you excrete more urine. Same goes with sugar in high amount, since our kidneys expels excess sugar in the body that requires more water along the process.
At the end of the hot day, stay hydrated with either water or a sports drink, depending on the activities you’re doing. Stay cool this summer and avoid overheating by wearing light clothing, avoiding staying under the harsh sun from 10 am – 4 pm, and drinking lots of fluids.