Staying hydrated is an important aspect of exercise. So what type of beverage is best? Mostly, it comes down to what your body needs. When you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to get clearance from your doctor before starting a new fitness routine; it’s also important to test your blood sugar (glucose) before, during and after a workout because exercise affects blood sugar. In fact, hypoglycemia is more likely to occur 4 to 10 hours after exercise than during or shortly afterward.
Below, find information on popular beverages for active people and tips on when you might try them—but if you’re unsure about what to eat or drink before, during or after exercise, always check with your doctor.
Drink It When: You’re thirsty. Zero calories and free, water should be your everyday go-to, particularly if managing your weight and limiting added sugars is a concern.
Enhanced Water (water with added vitamins or minerals)
Drink It When: Plain water isn’t tantalizing enough, as flavored varieties could make it easier to drink more and stay hydrated. Some of these waters contain electrolytes (the salts you lose when you sweat) or other vitamins and minerals, but it's possible to get similar benefits from drinking water and replacing electrolytes with regular, healthy meals. This category includes both drinks with noncaloric sweeteners and ones with added sugars—so be sure to account for calories and carbs, if the drink contains them.
Drink It When: You want something natural other than water, or you need a carbohydrate boost. Coconut water naturally contains some electrolytes (potassium, sodium) that could help replenish those lost during exercise. But some research may suggest that drinking coconut water won’t boost your hydration any better than water. An 8-oz. serving of coconut water contains about 45 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrate.
Drink It When: You’re exercising at a high intensity for longer than 60 minutes (or exercising at a lower intensity for longer periods), especially if it’s hot—or when your blood sugar levels are at the low end of your target range. Some research may suggest that the easily digestible carbohydrates in sports drinks may fuel prolonged physical activity. Plus sports drinks replace electrolytes (particularly sodium and potassium) that are lost via sweat. Per 8-oz. serving, sports drinks contain approximately 50 calories and 14 grams of carbohydrate.
Juice (100 percent)
Drink It When: You're craving something sweet, but monitor your blood glucose to see how it affects you because a single cup (8 oz.) may contain as much as 38 grams of carbohydrate—that’s about as much as 2 1/2 slices of bread! Diluting juices with water can help keep calories and carbohydrates in check. But if your blood sugar levels are low (<70 mg/dl), a half cup (4 oz.) of fruit juice—which provides about 15 grams of carbohydrate—can treat hypoglycemia. It’s smart to carry 4-ounce juice boxes or glucose tablets with you to treat low blood glucose.