A new study finds many sportsmen and women rehydrating during exercise with tea, coffee and alcohol

New research indicates widespread ignorance in the UK about the healthiest ways to rehydrate during and after exercise. According to the study, one in five people aren’t drinking any water at all, while a combined total of 49% of people are drinking fruit juice, sports drinks, tea and even alcohol during exercise. These drinks make up 49 percent of drinks consumed during exercise [2] and could be adding unanticipated sugar and calories.

Plain water is the most popular choice for exercise, followed by sports drinks, which are the second most popular drink for exercise for those under the age of 44. Among younger (18-24 years old) adults, 24% consume sports drinks during exercise, even though experts suggest that these only have a positive contribution to make during high intensity activities that last longer than an hour.

Professor Tom Sanders, emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Kings College London and adviser to the Natural Hydration Council, argues that sports drinks are not required for the majority of people doing exercise.

“For the vast majority of people exercising, plain water should be their first choice of drink,” he said. “Any other drinks could be adding unnecessary calories and sugar to the diet – effectively undoing the good work you’re doing when exercising. There is a myth that you need more than plain water if you are engaged in high intensity exercise – but the exercise also has to be at a sustained level for over 60 minutes for a sports drink to really be of benefit.”

He conceded that, “Sports drinks do enhance the rate at which water is absorbed,” but added that, “Drinking water will keep most people well hydrated and adds no additional calories.”

Failure to maintain adequate hydration levels can affect performance and have negative effects on the body.

Natural Hydration Council survey of 18-24 year olds

  • 23% drink sports drinks at work
  • 23% drink sports drinks at home
  • 12% drink sports drinks when hungover
  • 15% drink sports drinks if feeling ill/run down
  • 74% rehydrate with water during exercise*
  • 17% drink sports drinks
  • 13% drink fruit juice during exercise
  • 7% drink tea and coffee during exercise
  • 2% drink wine and beer during exercise
    *Respondents could choose more than one drink.

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