What should you drink during exercise?

By Athlete's Care on October 20, 2017

Sports drinks tend to offer a lot of promises, and it’s one of the topics our Toronto physiotherapists and sports medicine specialists are asked about the most frequently. Should you use specialty sports drinks when you exercise, and how much is enough? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Toronto Dietitian

First: Stay Hydrated!

The first step happens before you exercise. You should be well hydrated all the time, in other words. That means making sure you drink enough fluids on a daily basis. With many variables at play, our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic specialists can advise you on your specific needs.


Water is still the best solution to hydration when it comes to exercise, and it’s all you’ll need unless your workout lasts longer than 60 minutes. After an hour or so, your body will need more than water; it will need carbohydrates and electrolytes to function at optimum levels.

  • Coconut water contains high levels of potassium and sodium – giving it more electrolytes than Gatorade. That makes it a great alternative to water for longer workouts.
  • Fruit juices – freshly squeezed, they are carb-rich but can be used in moderation. They contain sugars that are easily digested and will therefore be used as additional fuel by your body, and add vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Veggie juices – these are typically high in sodium for electrolytes.


You don’t need an elaborate schedule in order to stay hydrated when you exercise. Just keep a few points in mind.

  • Pre-run: Drinking 20 ounces of water, 2-3 hours before a run puts you at optimal levels of hydration to begin with.
  • Coffee: Fun fact – coffee has been shown to boost endurance when ingested as a pre-run beverage.
  • During exercise – about 8 ounces every half hour, starting 30 minutes before your workout, is a general guideline. Drink more if it’s hot and humid, or simply if you are thirsty. That’s your body telling you it needs more.
  • After exercise – continue to hydrate with 8 ounces during the first half hour after you finish.

DIY Sports Drinks

Rather than relying on manufacturers to mass produce your sports drink, why not make your own? These DIY sports drinks are delicious, and will help hydrate you as they replenish vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

Citrus Sports Drink

3-4 cups water

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup

Coconut Citrus Sports Drink

3 cups coconut water

1 cup water

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup

  • Combine all the ingredients thoroughly and store in a clean pitcher.
  • Will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

It’s Individual

Exactly how much hydration you need will always be dependent on a variety of factors. The weather can be a factor, and when it’s hot and humid, you will need more hydration no matter what you do. Your physical condition and the type of sports or activities you engage in may also affect your hydration needs.

At Athletescare, our Toronto physiotherapists and sports medicine doctors can advise you about your specific hydration needs, based on your situation. Don’t hesitate to call us or come to one of our Toronto clinics today to make an appointment if you have any questions.