Dr. Amanda’s answer
“Normal” rehydration after a workout can easily and effectively be done in one of two ways:
1. Have a meal and snack with any form of fluid to hydrate
The first and best way is to have your next meal or snack (providing carbs, some protein and a bit of salt or spices added) along with any form of fluid.
What type of fluid do you need to drink to hydrate?
You don’t need a ‘special product’ – it could just be water. The carbs and electrolytes from the meal or snack will help with fluid absorption and rehydration. You don’t need to go wild with adding salt to your food either – regular savoury-type meals are typically more than sufficient and highly effective at replacing electrolytes and assisting with rehydration. If you sweat a lot and you see the ‘white salt’ stains on your exercise clothing, then you can perhaps add a little extra salt to your food. Some foods such as fruit and vegetables are also high in fluids, and something like soup may also be a great rehydration option.
If you don’t have a weight (body fat) problem and the rest of your diet is healthy, then your rehydration fluid source could be fruit juice (packed with other nutrients) or an energy drink or cooldrink. I would nevertheless still recommend having some additional water as well.
2. Use an energy drink to hydrate when a meal or snack is not an option
If a meal or snack is not an option, then an energy drink could do the trick – the carbs and some electrolytes typically added will assist with rehydration. But most sports drink available – despite the marketing hype – are not actually very high in electrolytes as high quantities makes the drink less palatable. This is where a meal or snack comes in handy as it is a more palatable and sufficient way of replacing electrolytes and assisting the rehydration process.
If one is more severely dehydrated (e.g. with ultra-endurance racing, multi-day competition, diarrhoea, and so on) then using one of the specifically formulated rehydrate solutions (e.g. Rehydrat®) could be an option. Due to its high electrolyte content, it does taste unpleasant, and most people find it difficult to drink. Formulated rehydrate solutions would not be a typical choice for regular post-exercise rehydration, nor is it necessary.
The amount of fluid needed to help you hydrate
Your fluid needs are highly individual as sweat rates differ; sweat rates also vary with different types of exercise, weather conditions, and so on. If you want to be spot on with your fluid needs then it’s best to weigh yourself before and after a typical workout or race. Then, multiply the weight (kg) that you’ve lost by 1.5. Example, if you’ve lost 1.2 kg during your workout, then multiply 1.2 kg x 1.5 = 1.8 litres of fluid that you should replace during recovery. If this is too complicated then an easier way to check your level of hydration is your urine colour – the darker the colour, the more fluid you need to drink. Light pale yellow means you are well hydrated.
All the best!
Photo by David Salafia