The Fancy Stuff

Okay, so water is cool, but what about Gatorade, Sportsade, and the scores of other liquid "ades" sprouting up all over the beverage aisle? After all, if it works for Michael Jordan it's got to be good. Right? To which we reply unequivocally, "Maybe."

Unless you're running, cycling, or engaging in any cardiovascular activity for at least 45 minutes to an hour a day or working out in a hot, humid gym, sports drinks really aren't necessary. There is no real physiological need for the extra calories or minerals in a sports drink. (You'll replenish everything you need in your next meal.)

However, if you are pounding the pavement with a vengeance, a sports drink may help you speed up the rate at which your body absorbs the fluid. Perhaps the biggest advantage these sporty drinks have over straight water is taste. A cold glass of pure mountain water may be the elixir of life, but after a while your taste buds may be calling out for more. Simply put, the more you like the taste, the more likely you are to drink the stuff.

Here are our top four tips for optimal hydration:

1. Unless a gator is chasing you or you're working out under extreme conditions, cold water is the best bet to keep you running efficiently.

2. Most commercial sports drinks contain a carbohydrate concentration of between 5 and 7 percent. Anything higher than that can cause gastric distress and actually slow fluid absorption. Diluted juice (50 percent juice/50 percent water) with maybe a pinch of salt works just as well.

3. Drink 16 ounces of cold water or diluted sports drink before working out.

4. Drink water every 15 minutes or so to prevent dehydration.

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