Drink Up: Sports Drinks, Bottled Water or Tap Water?

Posted by Karen Archia on
Drink of Life by Ameetav Nangrani
Ameetav Nangrani |licensed under cc

Do you buy sports drinks or bottled water? Elizabth Racine, DrPH, RD, an associate professor in Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, answers questions about what to drink to stay hydrated and why. You might even be surprised at her beverage of choice. -- Karen Archia, Associate Producer

The Fitness Files (TFF): What do you think about sports drinks versus water? Do people need those types of drinks rather than or in addition to water to stay hydrated?

Dr. Elizabeth Racine (ER): Sports drinks are helpful to drink after you engage in hard core exercise—if you engage in about 90 minutes or more of aerobic acitivty (like basketball, running, soccer, ultimate frisbee) —then you need to replenish the electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) that your body lost in sweat. However, most Americans do not engage in 90 minutes or more of aerobic activity at a time—so they don’t need the sport drinks for the electrolytes.  I think Americans are drinking them for the taste.

From a health perceptive, you need to watch the calories in sports drinks.  A 16 oz sports drink is about 100 calories. It takes 28 minutes of walking to burn 100 calories.  Tap water has zero calories.

People don’t need sports drinks to stay hydrated; water is fine.

TFF:What's really the difference between drinking bottled water and simply drinking tap water?

ER:  Fluoride—many bottled water brands do not include fluoride. Flouride is important for oral health, especially for those how don’t go to the dentist as much as recommended; Taste—bottled water companies add ingredients to ensure that the taste is consistent; Cost—tap water is cheap, bottled water is not.You can fill up your water bottle thousands of times with tap water for the amount you pay for one bottle of a typical bottled water brand. 

TFF: Many bottled waters tout special filtration, added minerals, electrolytes or other added or special features. Do any of these special features matter to our bodies or how well we are hydrated? Why and How?

ER: No. Tap water is filtered to be safe and maintain public health, and bottled water is also filtered to adhere to public health requirements and will be further filtered and ingredients added to enhance taste. 

TFF: What do you drink to stay hydrated? 

ER: I drink tap water.  Unless I'm traveling to a place where I don’t like the taste of the tap water; sometimes it takes a while to get accustomed to the taste of the local tap water.  

Photo credit: Drink of Life by Ammetav Nangrani|licensed under cc, cropped, reisized

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