On these hot summer days, it's very important to stay hydrated. While many people reach for a sports or energy drink, it may not always be the right choice.

On these hot summer days, it's very important to stay hydrated. While many people reach for a sports or energy drink, it may not always be the right choice.

The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines point out that sports drinks, along with soda and energy drinks, are major sources of added sugars in American diets. In fact, the average American adult actually drinks about 400 calories a day in the form of beverages! If you SWAP just 100 of those calories for a drink with no calories—like water—you may drop 10 pounds in a year.

Many people believe that sports drinks are healthier than water. It’s important to understand that sports drinks are specially formulated for athletes, who can deplete their energy stores after a long exercise session. Sports drinks contain energy in the form of simple carbohydrates (sugar) to replenish those energy stores. They also contain electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, to replace what a person loses when they sweat. Carbohydrates and electrolytes help the body maintain its fluid balance and help muscles maintain activity after intense or prolonged periods of exercise—usually lasting longer than one hour.

Sports drinks may be appropriate for kids or adults who participate in long, intense exercise. This includes long distance running or biking (for more than one hour), or intense activities such as soccer, basketball or hockey. However, sports drinks are not intended for the recreational athlete, for exercise sessions lasting less than one hour, for drinking with meals, or having as a snack.

Energy drinks are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. beverage market. Concerns have been raised about the amount of caffeine and other stimulants in these drinks, especially since children and teenagers often drink them. Another cause for concern is sugar. Many energy drinks have the sugar equivalent of dessert—often multiple servings of dessert!

Because of the high calories and sugar, people who frequently drink energy drinks may gain weight over the long term. High levels of caffeine and other stimulants have been linked to high blood pressure, irritability, rapid heartbeat and sleep troubles. Furthermore, there is limited evidence that drinking these drinks actually improves physical or mental performance.

If you’re feeling fatigued, look for healthier options to boost your energy. Create a sleep schedule, eat plenty of energy-boosting fruits and vegetables throughout the day and make time for physical activity.

For most kids and adults, drinking sports and energy drinks will just add calories, which can contribute to weight gain. Your best bet for staying hydrated throughout the day is plain, old-fashioned water. So unless you’re training for a long endurance event, SWAP water in place of sports or energy drinks to save calories. SWAP IT to DROP it Brown County!

The Heart of Brown County Project is a grant-funded initiative coordinated by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Allina Health and Brown County Public Health. For more information, visit www.heartsbeatback.org and choose “SWAP IT to DROP IT” under the “Brown County” menu tab.

Want to know how to select the most healthful choices when you shop? Looking for great-tasting, easy-to-make healthful meal solutions for your family? Join us for a free grocery store tour with a registered dietitian and get your questions answered! All tours are free and last approximately one hour. Meet the dietitian at the front of the store. Recipes and tips will be provided.

The next tour at Schutz Family Foods, 900 Main St. W., Sleepy Eye will take place Thursday, July 18 at 8 a.m. and will be led by Rebecca Fliszar, RD. The next tour will be Aug. 5 at noon.