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Choosing the Right Sports Drink

Posted September 28, 2021 by Nilesh Shah, M.D.

Young man drinking energy drink

Summer is a popular time for all sorts of races, from a 5K to a full marathon. While running in the summer heat, it's important to stay hydrated. Here are some recommendations promoted by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Hydration/Avoiding Heat Illness

  • Drink 8-10 ounces of sports drink 2-3 hours before the race to make sure you are properly hydrated before arriving at the starting line.
  • 10-20 minutes before the race, drink another 8 ounces of sports drink.
  • Just before the race, your urine should be the color of lemonade; clear means that you are over-hydrated.
  • During the race, drink 6-8 ounces of a sports drinks* every 15-20 minutes.
  • Do not drink: fruit juices, sodas, energy drinks, or beverages with carbohydrate levels higher than 8-10%. Also, avoid caffeine-containing beverages, alcohol and carbonation since they can lead to dehydration and increase the risk for heat illness.
  • If you develop cramps in the legs, stop and try to stretch. Drink sports drinks only. Go to one of the medical tents on the course for help with cramps that do not respond to these measures.

So, what constitutes a good sports drink?

Carbohydrate concentrations of 6-8% (or 14-18 grams of carbohydrate per 8-ounce serving), sodium (about 20-30 meq/liter), and potassium (about 2-5 meq/liter) seem to work best.


  • Thirst
  • Headache across the temples
  • Irritability
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Decreased performance


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.