While water is often your best hydration option, there are times when we just feel like grabbing something convenient (and flavored!) for a workout.  Here are 3 ways to help you choose the one that’s right for you.


With water making up 60% of the human body, it is easy to say that hydration is one of the most important components of health.  Water is essential for a multitude of vital bodily functions.  As you lose water continuously throughout the day, such as from breathing, sweating, skin evaporation, and going to the bathroom, it is critical to replace those losses to maintain good health.

Adequate hydration to support exercise is especially important because your body regulates its temperature through sweating. When sweat losses are greater than fluid intake, dehydration will occur, thereby impairing athletic performance and causing fatigue.

Water is always the best choice, but what if you want to quickly grab something that’s flavored when you’ve worked out to replace your electrolytes?  

Choosing the right workout drink to stay hydrated is not so cut and dry, especially when navigating the thousands of drinks on the market that can be confusing and tricky for the consumer.

Here are 3 steps to choosing the right drink for you (that isn’t water):

1. Select the purpose of the drink in your hand.  

Are you looking for something to quench your thirst, or did you just finish a sweaty workout?  If you are simply looking to increase your hydration during the day, opt for a simple beverage that replaces those electrolytes you just lost.  After a sweaty workout, choose a drink with sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to properly replace what was lost in your sweat.

2. Choose what feels right.

Just because one drink is a good choice for someone else, does not mean it is the best choice for you.  Choose an electrolyte beverage paired with a snack post-workout if a carbohydrate-based sports drink isn’t what you want.  In contrast, people involved in high intensity exercise can afford to incorporate sports drinks with moderate amounts of carbohydrate.

3. Look at the ingredients and the nutrition facts label.

The first few ingredients are the ones you want to hone in on, as these are the most abundant in the drink. Be mindful of whether you see high fructose corn syrup at the top! Some sports drinks will have sugar or dextrose listed in the first few ingredients as a carbohydrate source for post-workout replacement of glycogen stores or to improve the rate of hydration, respectively.

For these types of sports drinks, go to the nutrition facts label and look at the amount of sugar compared to the serving size. A sports drink with >15-30 grams of total carbohydrate in one bottle is probably not the best choice.

TIP: Make sure to look at the servings per container. Multiply this number by the grams of total carbohydrate listed in the nutrition facts to determine the number of grams in the entire bottle!

What about all those protein-packed waters and drinks?  While the popularity of protein is surging in the health and fitness world, there is no evidence that indicates providing protein supplements in an already nutrient-sufficient diet provides any additional benefit. However, if a person cannot meet their protein needs solely through food, protein-supplemented drinks may be used as a way to contribute to overall daily hydration.

However you need to hydrate, now you know: there are so many ways to get there!

Lindsay Chetelat, RD, CDN is a NYC-based Registered Dietitian who focuses on empowering individuals to take care of their bodies. Her approach is rooted in helping others gain an appreciation for their bodies through the food they take in, and creating a mindset that transformation is about the progress one is willing to make in their journey, not quick diet fixes.