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What Water Works Best for Workouts?

From plain old H2O to coconut water to sports drinks, there's a sea of options!

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These days, we have many beverage choices, beyond plain water, to keep us hydrated. — Tetra Images / Alamy

En español l Millions of us don't feel as good as we should because we don't drink the eight or more glasses of water we need daily. Water is an often overlooked nutrient, one that's involved in practically every bodily process.

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I know that if I'm dehydrated, I either feel really tired or more tired than I should. But when I drink water regularly, I have more energy. That's because water assists in the loading and storing of energy-giving glycogen in your muscles. It's also a solvent and carrier for nutrients. It helps in digestion, circulation and joint lubrication. It flushes toxins and metabolic wastes from your system. A few studies have even found that drinking enough of it may help decrease the risk of some cancers.

These days, we have many beverage choices — beyond plain water — to keep us hydrated. You've probably seen about a zillion types of waters in your grocery store: These are broadly known as "enhanced waters" because they contain vitamins, minerals, sugar, caffeine, flavorings and other additions.

Another hydration choice is the sports drink (such as Gatorade) designed to replace electrolytes including sodium, potassium and chloride lost through sweat.

With so many hydration products out there, allow me to weigh in on when you need them and when you don't.

Sports Drinks and Enhanced Waters

Tennis players and other athletes use sports drinks — and for good reasons. Tennis players can sweat more than 2.5 liters of fluid, especially when playing competition matches in warm and hot environments. For tennis matches lasting more than an hour, we'd frequently rehydrate with sports drinks. They are a great on-court beverage.

If you're fairly athletic — you play tennis, take long runs or bike rides, play soccer, softball or basketball for an hour or more — I recommend that you make sports drinks part of your hydration plan. Being very active for more than 60 minutes can deplete your energy and your electrolyte and fluid reserves. Sports drinks fill the bill. Look for those that have electrolytes plus no more than 50 calories and 14 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

For activities lasting less than an hour, plain water will replace lost fluids. But a lot of people find plain water boring. One solution is to drink enhanced waters.

The added nutrients help replace vitamins and minerals lost during a workout. But be careful: some of these waters are high in sugar and calories. Certain brands might be as high as 125 calories a bottle, probably close to what you just burned in a 30-minute workout. My advice is to read labels and choose a brand with no more than 10 calories per eight ounces.

Next page: What are the benefits of drinking coconut water? »

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