There are so many choices. You might think by the size of the soda aisle in the grocery store that it’s the most popular choice for hydration. While it may be the most popular choice, it’s definitely not the best. Here’s how all the drinks stack up for your choice of hydration. Here’s a hint – it depends on your activity level.
Without a doubt, your number one choice for hydration. Think of this as an excuse to go out and buy that new water bottle you’ve been eyeing, you’re going to want to stay hydrated with water all day long. If you are exercising, water is your first choice if you are working out for less than 60 minutes. During the summer, with intense heat or excessive sweating, you will want to add some electrolytes to your drink to keep performance high.
Who would have thought we would be talking about milk as a performance beverage, but it definitely is. Milk is the drink of choice after water, especially for kids. Even as an adult, milk is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein and provides 30% of the daily value of calcium and when fortified, gives you 25% of the recommended amount of vitamin D. That’s some good nutrition.
Want more milk facts? Chocolate milk has been extensively studied as an exercise recovery drink. Turns out, it has the perfect balance of fat, carbs, and protein to start feeding those muscles immediately after exercise. Make sure you’re still paying attention to added sugar – look for a brand with 12-15 grams of sugar or less total, keeping in mind that some of this is natural sugar from milk.
When going down the hierarchy of drinks to choose for hydration, juice falls somewhere in the middle. It has its place, just as most drinks do. One cup of OJ is going to run you about 20 grams of sugar, none of which are added, these are naturally occurring. Compare that to soda with approximately 40 grams of ADDED sugar – juice is clearly the winner. Juice can be a good replenishment to get extra carbohydrates into the body, if that is what you are searching for. Juice will also provide vitamin C, which is a very powerful antioxidant. If you are not getting any fruits or vegetables throughout the day, then you want the vitamin C from fruit. Always choose 100% juice, no juice cocktails, and drink sparingly.
Both of these may be a staple in your morning routine, but if you want to use these for hydration, it’s probably better to switch to decaf. Coffee and tea have a mild diuretic effect, but it’s not huge. Even so, if you are drinking for the purposes of hydration, nix the caffeine and watch the added sugar.
You would think by the amount of sports drinks in the grocery store that these were necessary at every sport – wrong. Sports drinks are often not used correctly. These were created to replace electrolytes and provide quick carbohydrates for athletes competing in high intensity and endurance sports (football, basketball, cross country, etc) – not for the weight room. A good rule of thumb for whether or not you need a sports drink is this: If you are in a high-intensity activity and have excessive sweat – or are working or exercising in the heat for more than 60 minutes, you need a sports drink. Anything less than that, water will do with whole foods to follow. In other words, for your next 5K, stick with water and the complementary banana.
I can throw soda and energy drinks into the same category, because many times, they are one and the same. Bottom line – soda is not an appropriate hydration source in any instance when other options are available. One can of cola is going to give you 10 teaspoons of added sugar – mind you, a grown man should only have 9 teaspoons of added sugar max and women and kids hit the limit at 6 teaspoons. This is ADDED sugar and that’s what you’ll get in soda. Choose something else.