Should You Drink Cold / Warm Water or Sports Drink After A Workout?

Most of us tend to sweat when we exercise. This is especially true if we are outside in the summer, or if we are inside a warm room.

I live in south Florida, where it is very hot and humid most of the year. This means when I go out for a run, I need to be prepared to sweat a lot. In the summer months, I can literally wring pints of sweat out of my clothes after an exercise session.

Should I drink cold water after a workout? In my mind, the answer to this question is almost always yes.

Drinking cold water after a hard workout not only tastes refreshing, but it brings down the core temperature. This can be an essential step to take after exercising in the heat of summer. The exception to taking in cold water after a workout is in the cold weather months. Ingesting cold water after a long exercise session out in the frigid air is less than helpful. In those situations, it is better to take in room temperature or even heated water to help warm up.

Some people prefer to drink warm water all year round. Their reasoning is that warm water doesn’t shock the body like icy cold water does.

Warm water also doesn’t require any extra energy to heat it up from the body’s already depleted systems. That may be the case, but to me the thought of drinking warm water after a tough, sweaty workout just doesn’t sound very refreshing.

Some people exercise with sweating as their main goal. It might be that they are intending to purge their bodies of toxins, or perhaps they just enjoy the feeling of pushing themselves very hard. Either way, these folks feel that it isn’t a true workout if they don’t break into a sweat.

Exercise activities like Bikram Yoga are specifically designed to induce sweating. This particular style of yoga is practiced in rooms that are heated to 105 F, or 40.5 C with 40% humidity.

The instructor will take students through a particular set of 26 poses during the session. These poses are specially chosen to increase strength and balance while detoxifying the body through the process of sweating.

Seventy percent of our body content is water. Sweating means we are losing some of that precious liquid through our pores. To keep healthy and avoid being dehydrated, we need to replace that water as quickly as possible.

The dilemma for some people is what temperature that replacement water should be.

Is It Better to Drink Water or Sports Drink After a Workout?

It does the body good to take in sports drink after an intense exercise session. Sweating means losing more than just water. Minerals and other essential electrolytes are carried out of the body as we perspire. Sports drinks can help to replenish these compounds, as well as sugars that can fuel us so we can continue to exercise, thus, in most cases, it is a preferred option to consume sports drinks after a workout rather than plain water.

It can also be helpful to consume smaller amounts of sports drink before and during a workout. Especially if the exercise planned for the day is going to take place over an extended amount of time.

Preloading with sports drink will not only make sure you are hydrated, but it will also top off the body’s sugar stores (aka energy supply) to fuel you throughout the entire exercise session.

If exercising for an hour or more, having access to sports drink in the middle of the workout is advantageous to keep water and electrolyte levels high enough to keep you going all the way to the end.

For that reason, many organized athletic endurance events will offer Gatorade or other sports drinks along the way to ensure the contestants are able to replenish their liquid levels.

We also highly recommend that you check out our post “Triathlon Nutrition Guide: Before, During & After Race (What Not To Eat !!!)

Is Sports Drink Healthy?

Sports drink is not really healthy per se – it’s basically slightly salted sugar water. But even though it’s not healthy, it can still be the best thing for an athlete who has just completed an electrolyte-depleting workout.

Outside of the times in and around exercise, we are far better off drinking plain water. It might not taste as good as some other drinks, but water is usually a cheaper option and better for us in general.

Using sports drink as a default beverage can load us up with excess sugars that are unnecessary and can lead to weight gain. All the electrolytes included in sports drinks that can be so helpful after a workout are basically ignored by the body at other times and will pass straight through the digestive system.

A major part of nutrition will also be your fluid intake. You can’t rehydrate the day of a race if you’ve been dehydrated in the days leading up to it, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water beforehand. You’ll also need to have plenty of water while doing the race, but it’s equally important to consume sugar and electrolytes.

Also, check out our post Titled “What Is The History of Sports Drinks? (A Brief Look) . It is also important to tell the difference between “Sports VS Energy Drinks: Which One Is Best for Athletes?

If you are looking for an electrolyte source, we highly recommend Nuun tablets Energy (Amazon Link). Aside from the nice flavors offered, Nuun is among the few, if not the only electrolyte tablets that have caffeine in them. We have tested it for a while and just couldn’t find any better substitute.

The main point here is that it is important to rehydrate after a long, sweaty workout. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer your water warm or cold, or if you choose to reach for a sports drink instead.

The good thing about all these options being available is there is far less chance of athletes falling victim to dehydration.

Brad Birky

Brad Birky is an endurance athlete and trained chef who has qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon as well as multiple Ironman distance triathlons

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