Are Sports Drinks Necessary to Rehydrate After Sex?
What could be better than hot, steamy sex that makes you work up a sweat? But if you've been "working out" between the sheets, you may wonder if all the sweat is leaving your body devoid of important electrolytes. After all, every sports drink commercial and fitness professional seems to emphasize the importance of staying hydrated and replacing lost fluids.
If you're sweating a lot during sex, does that mean you need to grab a sports drink postcoitus to stay on top of your game? They taste great and all, but are they necessary?
Electrolytes and hydration
It's true that when you sweat a lot, in addition to losing water content, you're losing electrolytes. These electrolytes include sodium, potassium, magnesium and chlorine, all of which play important roles in muscle and nerve cell function, as well as cellular hydration. If you sweat excessively and lose a lot of electrolytes, whether through exercise, vigorous sex or just spending time outside on a hot day, failing to replenish these important nutrients through food or drinks can negatively affect your body's ability to adequately rehydrate, even if you're consuming a lot of water.
But there are two major caveats to consider. First, you have to sweat a lot to significantly impact your body's ability to rehydrate normally. That is, the electrolyte loss has to be significant. Second, most people can replenish electrolytes effectively through normal food consumption after any kind of workout without ever needing to pick up a sports drink or other electrolyte supplement.
That's not to say, however, that sports drinks or electrolyte supplements don't have their place. They do. But they're not nearly as necessary for performance or hydration as sports drink companies would like you to believe.
Exercise and fluid replacement: The basic guidelines
People generally sweat most on a day-to-day basis during exercise, and as a result, this is the time when people are most likely to lose a lot of electrolytes. For this reason, exercise physiologists and other sports scientists have studied the impact of fluid and electrolyte loss on performance, and how best to rehydrate during and following different types of exercise. Based on this information, they've come up with pretty solid guidelines for when and how to rehydrate most effectively. For most people, sports drinks are completely unnecessary.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine's position stand on exercise and fluid replacement, using electrolyte drinks to help replenish the nutrients and hydration levels lost during exercise is typically only necessary when:
- Moderate to intense exercise lasts longer than an hour, particularly in hot conditions; for instance, a hilly, two- to three-hour bike ride on a sunny afternoon.
- Repeated bouts of exercise take place on the same day without much rest in between. Examples might be a basketball tournament, training for an ultra-endurance race or football two-a-days training.
- Intense exercise takes place in hot and humid conditions and the sweat rate is high, such as during a 10k race in the middle of the day during the summer.
Essentially, when workouts are extra long or in conditions that increase a typical sweat rate, there may be more of a reason to turn to sports drinks to help rapidly replenish electrolytes.
Fluid replacement after sex
Given the reality that most people don't need to turn to sports drinks after a standard workout routine, chances are you don't need them after a standard sexual encounter, either. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're never appropriate.
"In general, your body and kidneys are able to balance out your electrolytes if you sweat a little after a quickie," said Salome Masghati, M.D., M.S., an OB-GYN in Maryland. "But if you have intense, long-endurance sex, then chances are you'll sweat out some important electrolytes. You can compare the effect of intense sex to a sauna visit or workout. The more sex you have and the longer it lasts, the more bodily fluid you lose and the more you need to replenish."
What scenarios might lead to a lot of fluid loss?
Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., a sociologist and clinical sexologist in Southern California, put it plainly: "Sweaty sex. In a shower, sauna or enclosed space such as a car or a tent at Burning Man. Also, if you tend to 'run hot' and have spent time in the sun or have engaged in heavy exercise before your sex session."
Melancon pointed to scenarios where your electrolytes may be out of whack for other reasons, making it more important to replenish a loss post-sex.
"Electrolytes can be beneficial if you were recently sick and lost fluids through diarrhea, vomiting or sweat," she noted. "Also, pregnant women struggling to stay hydrated may find benefit from post-sex electrolytes, although they should consult with their doctor. Also, if there's a health condition at play, such as kidney disease, congestive heart failure or if you're taking diuretics or laxatives, electrolytes may help, although, again, you should talk to your doctor. Electrolyte balance is important, but too much can be just as harmful as too little."
Best ways to replenish electrolytes
If you were particularly active during your workout or your sex session turned into a tantric marathon, replenishing your electrolytes may help you return to normal faster. But that still doesn't necessarily mean you should grab a sports drink.
"Sports drinks do contain a good amount of electrolytes, but often they contain artificial flavors and coloring. The sugar or sugar replacement isn't the healthiest ingredient, either," Masghati said. "To be on the safe side, you would be better off making yourself a homemade juice containing celery, carrots and beets. They're full of natural sodium and potassium, and the nitric oxide in the beets helps with blood flow to the genital region. Alternatively, you can have a glass of filtered water, a sprinkle of salt and some lemon juice for an easy fix. Or drink coconut water, which contains lots of healthy minerals and is comparably low in sugar."
If you're just a little sweaty after a workout or some breathtaking sex, try a simple glass of water. Usually, it's all you need, as you'll likely replenish your electrolytes the next time you have a snack or meal.