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hydrating for summer sportSummer has finally arrived in BC, just in time for a busy event season. Whether you’re running, cycling or competing in any of the many equestrian events we have going in the lower mainland, knowing how to hydrate is key to getting the most out of your training and performance.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about what to drink and when, so today I’m going to dive in to how to hydrate properly depending on your goals and sport.

To sports drink or not to sports drink…

  •  Sports drinks are designed for two purposes:
  • To replace electrolytes lost in sweat (sodium and potassium)
  • To improve rate of fluid absorption in your gut

The mix of a bit of sugar, electrolytes and water is actually better absorbed than plain water under most conditions. That being said, we don’t always need this advantage and extra sugar and salt can be less than helpful when taken in excess.

When to use them:

Just a note here, you’ll see I specified “continuous” activity. For sports where there are longer breaks in between bursts of activity you likely will not need one unless you have multiple games and no chance to eat in between (like a long day of tournaments). Single softball or soccer games are great examples of sports where you’re better off sticking to plain water.

If your workout is less than 60 minutes of continuous activity:

Only use on really hot or humid days when intensity is high and you’re losing a LOT of sweat. We also replace electrolytes through food, so most often shorter workouts don’t require any supplementation, and the extra added sugars and sodium may contribute to weight gain, fluid retention, and isn’t great for health.

If your workout is 60-90 minutes of continuous activity:

If it’s hot or humid out you’ll likely want to include a sports drink of some sort in your fluid regimen, along with some plain water.  Unless you’re snacking during the session you’ll start to notice symptoms of electrolyte depletion near the end of your workout including fatigue and lethargy, and you may have depleted glucose stores.

If your workout is 90 minutes or more of continuous activity:

You’ll definitely need to include a sports drink as part of your regimen here, particularly in the warmer months. You’ll be depleting fluid, sodium, potassium and glucose stores enough that it will impact your performance. At this length you’ll also likely see some digestive changes and plain water may not be as well absorbed, leading to more serious dehydration.

Can you have too much?


→For the average active person, the excess sugar and sodium isn’t helpful and is linked to weight gain and long term health issues. Most are also heavy on the food dyes which negatively impact long term gut health, as well as other additives that aren’t considered “everyday” ingredients.

→For those who are training and competing, too much sodium will lead to to fluid retention which can actually slow you down through both extra weight and reduced mobility/strength in the muscles. I encourage all my competitive clients to experiement with finding the right mix of water, sports drinks and snacks at home during training to avoid unhappy surprises come race day. Don’t forget, many gels/bars/blocks/beans have sodium in them too, so we want to account for what we’re getting from all sources


There is a huge array of commercial powders and ready made liquids for you to try. If you can look for one without dyes (although this is hard to find) and a limited ingredient list. It should contain both sodium and potassium, as well as a sugar source such as glucose.

You can also make your own healthier version at home that will have more potassium as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help repair and refresh!

For a homemade rehydration drink try the following:

Homemade Rehydration Drink For Sport
  •  3 cups/750 mL warm water
  • ½ tsp table salt (finer salts will dissolve more easily than sea salt or kosher)
  • 1 cup/250 mL Orange juice, pineapple juice, or grape juice

Stir salt in to warm water until dissolved, mix in juice and chill.

 Nutritional Information:

Per 1 cup/250 mL

  • 7-9 grams sugar
  • 66-118 mg potassium
  • 287 mg sodium

As always, if you need help finding the right nutrition strategies to get the most out of your summer activities and sports, connect with me at info@westccoastnutrition.ca or call 778.389.4802 to figure out if you’re the right fit for our services. Happy adventuring!

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How do you stay hydrated while you’re training and competing in the summer heat? I’d love to hear what you’re up to on our facebook page.

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