Fitness Tips

Eating a Sports Drink Popsicle Before Exercising in the Heat May Make It Feel Easier

Photo: Getty Images/Techa Tungateja
Whether you love running, lifting weights, playing tennis, doing HIIT, or streaming fitness classes at home, most people are well aware of the importance of proper hydration before, during, and after a workout. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and other electrolyte beverages are designed to help prevent dehydration by increasing the absorption of water and replacing the essential minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, lost in sweat. Recently, though, more athletes are turning to frozen sports drink popsicles, either homemade or store-bought, to up the ante on their hydration.

Why are athletes making room in the freezer for sports drinks? And should you be following suit? To learn more about this new trend in hydration for exercise, we spoke with registered dietitian Julia Denison, RD, LDN, who has a background in sports nutrition, for her hot take on these frozen recovery snacks.

Do sports drink popsicles work?

Sports drink popsicles are essentially just regular sports drinks in frozen form. Not only can this be an enjoyable treat after a hot summer workout. “There is some evidence that a sports drink popsicle may be an effective way to cool down and improve performance prior to endurance exercise in the heat, but the evidence is limited,” says Denison. “More research needs to be done to say if sports drink popsicles are effective at improving performance.”

But there’s evidence to suggest that pre-cooling the body before working out in the heat can potentially improve performance, and drinking or eating something icy can be one of the most effective ways to do this. “This is because the sports drink popsicle can lower your core body temperature, which can decrease the time it takes for you to feel exhausted,” Denison says. Of course, it won’t hurt to have one right after your workout to start replenishing the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat.

Who should consider using sports drink popsicles?

Denison says that any adult could benefit from a frozen sports drink popsicle prior to an endurance workout, [especially] in extreme heat, but that it’s important to listen to your body whenever you try something new. “If something feels off, then maybe it isn’t the best idea.”

Evidence is still limited that it will improve performance, she adds. “So if you feel weird or anxious, maybe this isn’t the best choice for you,” Denison says. “In comparison, if you try this and feel great, then as of right now, there is really no evidence that states it is unsafe. Listen to your body, and make sure you are focusing on the big picture of your endurance workout and not just one component.”

Should you choose to pre-fuel with a frozen snack, one final word of caution: Give yourself ample time to consume yours so you don’t wind up with a brain freeze.

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