Even if you aren’t exercising you should be aiming to drink between two and three litres of water throughout the day. That said, for those exercising for over 45 minutes to an hour, and particularly those engaging in cardio intensive exercise, electrolyte products can give you that extra push.
So, what’s the best post workout hydration drink? The best way to avoid dehydration is prevention, so before we delve into what’s best to hydrate post-exercise, lets cover how to prepare for an optimally hydrated-workout.
Without a doubt, the biggest weapon in your hydration arsenal is the old ‘council pop’, that’s right, tap water. Asides from drinking 2-3 litres of water a day, regardless of your level of exercise, it’s always advisable to drink around a pint of water in the two hours before exercise. It’s also advised to drink around 150-200 ml for every 20 minutes of exercise.
While water will do the job, for those of you wanting an extra boost, isotonic sports drinks and gels, such as those from Aptonia, Isostar and SIS have got you covered. These drinks provide a faster replenishment of glucose (carbohydrates) and essential minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium (electrolytes). You can even prepare your own sports drinks at home using powders and tablets, which can save you money over the pre-mixed bottles.
Vitamin drinks are a happy medium between sports drinks and water. For the less intensive sports enthusiasts among us, vitamin water could prove a useful ally in mid or post-workout replenishment during activities such as yoga, light swimming, jogging, or the more mellow hiking routes. For more intense activity like hot yoga, boxing, squash or a triathlon, you may find more benefits with an isotonic sports drink.
While hydration is predominantly associated with taking in liquids, food is key in replenishing glycogen stores and essential nutrients. Eating before workouts is key, around an hour or so before activity. It is advisable to take in 20-30 grams of carbohydrates in this time frame to optimise glycogen stores.
For long distance, cardio intensive exercise such as marathons, triathlons or an ironman, it is commonplace for participants to consume sports drinks, gels or food during the competition or training circuit. Here, energy bars can come in handy, as well as whole food sources such nuts or dried fruit. For post-exercise replenishment, turn to protein bars and shakes, or a packet of beef jerky for an immediate hit of the muscle repairing protein.
At the end of the day, your general diet and water intake is going to make the biggest impact on your workout. Staying hydrated and nutritionally on form during your day to day routine is going to make the most significant difference to how you perform. Take changes to your diet and routine slowly, but make weekly changes to keep improving and you’ll see constant benefits to your health and performance in training or competitions.