By Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D.
Runner's World

Look on the market and there are a dizzying array of sports drinks that promise to help you go longer, get stronger, run faster and recover better. But what should you drink for your workouts?

Certainly it's important to stay hydrated during exercise. But for the average workout of 60 minutes or less, you typically won't need anything more than water. If you're going longer than an hour, or it's hot and humid outside, then you may need the extra calories and electrolytes that sports drinks provide.

Each individual has different needs based on weight, sweat rate, and how hard you're working. Here is what you need to know to stay hydrated.

What Should I Drink While Exercising? Slideshow


Stick To Water

Simple water is the best way to go. But if you just can’t stomach it, try one of the many flavored, calorie-free waters on the market. Be sure to read the nutrition label and avoid extra calories and sugar. If you want a natural option that's a little tastier, try adding a slice of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, a few mint leaves or even cucumber to your water. More from Runner's World: 5 Mental Barriers, Smashed


Stay Hydrated Throughout The Day

This is the best way to avoid a last-minute push to pound fluids before a workout, a sloshy or nauseous feeling while you're on the road, and unwanted pit stops on your run. So sip small amounts of water or calorie-free beverages throughout each day. A good rule of thumb is to aim to drink half your body weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces throughout the day. If you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75. More from Runner's World: 5 Keys to Staying Injury Free


Do The Bathroom Check

When you're adequately hydrated, your urine will be the color of pale lemonade or straw. If it's clear, you're drinking too much. If it's the color of apple juice, drink more.


Drink When You're Thirsty

That's the advice from the International Marathon Medical Directors Association and Tim Noakes, M.D., author of Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports. The body's thirst mechanism is exquisitely tuned to tell you when you need to hydrate.


Drink More When It's Hot And Humid

Hydration becomes most important during intense exercise in the heat. When it's hot and you're sweating, it's easier to get dehydrated. Even slight dehydration can make the effort feel tougher. So drink extra water and electrolytes when it's hot and humid outside. The best bet for rehydration is to consume a low-cal beverage that contains electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Good choices include sports drinks (go low-cal if your workout), try coconut water, or water with a slice of fruit. The refreshing hint of flavor may drive you to drink more. How much is enough? Try to drink to match your thirst. If you want to be technical about it, simply weigh yourself before heading out and once again when you return. For every pound of body weight you lose, aim to drink at least 16 oz of fluid. You'll know you've consumed enough when your urine runs light yellow in color. More from Runner's World: Running in the Heat


Check The Label Before You Sip

Many sports drinks look appealing, but they are also laden with calories and sugar, which makes it easy to consume all the calories that you worked so hard to burn. Avoid specialty coffee drinks, high-octane sports drinks, and even fruit juice, all of which can be high in calories. Unless your workout lasted over an hour or cause you to sweat profusely, stick to something as simple as water with a slice of lime. If you're looking to replace electrolytes, choose a calorie-free sports drink or even coconut water. Remember, if your goal is to stay hydrated while also shedding unwanted weight, choose a drink with less than 50 calories for every 16-ounce serving.


Get A Jolt Pre-Run

It's OK to drink coffee or caffeinated tea before a workout. In fact studies have shown that caffeine boosts energy and alertness. Just be sure to leave enough time between your java and your run to hit the bathroom. The heat of the liquid gets the bowels moving, and you don't want to have to make an unwanted stop on the run. More from Runner's World: 16 Healthy Prerun Meals and Snacks


Do The Sweat Test

If you're curious to see how much fluid you lose during an hour-long workout, here's how to find out: Weigh yourself naked before a workout, then again after yo'’re done. If you lost one pound during the workout, you sweated 16 ounces (one pound). Next time, when you're working out in similar conditions, aim for 16 ounces of fluids during the workout to replace what you lost through sweating.


Rehydrate Post-Workout

Do you have white streaks on your skin or clothes after your workout? It means you’re a salty sweater. You've lost a lot of sodium. Have a sports drink or water with an electrolyte tablet. There are many types of sugar-free, low-calorie electrolyte tablets, which dissolve quickly in water and help replenish electrolytes. You might also try vegetable juice, which is a good source of sodium. If you're looking for a boost, try this all-natural recipe to make your own sports drink. Just combine these ingredients: • 8 teaspoons sugar • 2 teaspoons honey • 1/3 teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon lime juice • 24 ounces water For more information on hydration and drinking, read this article.

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