You don’t need to be an expert in human biology to understand the importance of staying hydrated while you’re exercising. Of course, it’s important to stay hydrated all the time, but that’s especially the case when you’re exercising. As the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) notes, body weight can decrease anywhere from one to three percent in cases of minimal dehydration and up to five percent in serious cases. Needless to say, that’s a bad thing.
For most people the preferred way to keep hydrated when exercising is with water or perhaps one of a number of sports drinks expressly designed for this purpose. Which is not such a bad idea and the ACSM actually gives sports drinks a thumbs up for the carbohydrates and electrolytes that they provide.
For my own purposes, exercising regularly in the sultry climate of southern Arizona, water or tea are my most frequent choices. While most people don’t look to the latter as the first option for rehydrating during and after exercise I tend to gravitate toward it for the following reasons:
- Hydration — First and foremost, of course, there’s the matter of hydration. Though the consensus is often that tea is not suited for this sort of thing, studies have shown that this is not actually the truth. They include a recent study by Australian researchers that found that caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee do not contribute to dehydration.
- Caffeine boost — It’s actually the caffeine content of tea, now that you mention it, that can also be of some benefit when it comes to exercise. Among the studies supporting this notion are a 2001 study by Canadian researchers that found that it “could be beneficial in training and in competition” for a number of reasons. Researchers also found that no evidence that caffeine during exercise contributed to “dehydration, ion imbalance, or any other adverse effects.”
- Taste — Last, but certainly not least, is the palatability question. One of the issues that I’ve run across when exercising in extreme heat, is that it becomes difficult to keep drinking plain water after a while. As the ACSM notes, “enhancing palatability of a beverage will help to encourage fluid consumption” and while I don’t typically gravitate much toward sweetened sports beverages I do find that tea fits the bill quite nicely.
For more from the ACSM on exercise and fluid replacement, look here.
Tea — The Ultimate Hydrator?
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