Health Watch -- Quench Your Thirst

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

The best way to beat the heat in the summer is to drink plenty of liquids. We all know that. But what exactly should you drink?

There are now almost as many choices in the water and sports drinks sections of the grocery store as there are in the soda section. There are flavored waters, fitness drinks, endurance drinks and fortified waters. The selection can be confusing, but nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you should consider your needs when you choose a drink.

If you exercise strenuously on a daily basis, you may need to replace your muscles' energy stores. In that case, UT Southwestern dietitian Lona Sandon suggests you look for a drink that contains carbohydrates. This will help boost your endurance and energy while you exercise. Also look for potassium and sodium. Those are electrolytes that help maintain water balance in your cells to prevent dehydration. For lighter workouts, you may only need a drink that replaces these electrolytes.

Flavor is something else to consider. During heavy workouts, your taste preferences may change so that you're less likely to drink enough fluids to keep your body hydrated when you're drinking water alone. The sweet or salty taste that's added to sports drinks makes them more palatable.

If you're exercising to lose weight, remember that some of these beverages contain calories, so check the label.

Plain old water may be fine for light activity, but avoid alcohol or caffeine when you're active in the heat because they can lead to dehydration.