Study reveals the best way to rehydrate after exercise

Want to know the secret of great rehydration following exercise? Just eat!

For decades we’ve been sold on the importance of rehydrating after exercise by consuming specially formulated beverages, such as sports drinks, and even milk under a ‘not all fluids are created equal’ mantra.

However a Griffith University study has found that once food is consumed, water should be the drink of choice for most of us following a workout.


The study – published in the journal Physiology and Behavior – took ten endurance trained athletes aged between 18-30 and had them cycle intensively for one hour on four separate occasions. Following the exercise, participants were provided with one beverage to drink as they desired. The beverages included water (used on two of the trials), a carbohydrate-electrolyte Powerade (sports drink) or the milk-based drink Sustagen Sport.

In addition, on two occasions during recovery, the participants were given access to a variety of food which could also be voluntarily consumed.

“The fluid provided from all beverages was equally well retained, despite different consumption volumes, and resulted in participants’ body weights returning to near pre-exercise levels,” says Associate Professor Ben Desbrow from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“The findings from this study demonstrate that the consumption of food following exercise plays an important role in causing fluid retention when different beverages are consumed.”

The take home message was that when participants consumed a fluid containing calories (i.e. the Powerade or Sustagen Sport trials), their combined energy intake from the drink and food was greater than on the water trials.

Associate Professor Desbrow says that it is imperative when making post-exercise nutrition recommendations, to consider beverage selection within the context of an individual’s broader health targets.

“For those with a weight loss goal, a calorie-free drink such as water is the perfect choice: it rehydrates equally effectively as other beverages, without supplying additional energy.”

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