Windsurfing: water is always the best drink | Photo: PWA/Carter

Research has shown that consuming adequate fluids is essential to optimize performance. Health promoter and windsurfer Henrik Beyer leaves us important tips on what and when windsurfers should be drinking for optimal performance and good health.

The sports drink industry has produced "sports" drinks with sodium, potassium, caffeine, taurine, guarana and most of all sugar. It made billions on our hope to find the magic ingredients that increase performance. But do windsurfers really need them?

For years, the sports drink industry has spent a great deal of money and effort to cast doubt on water and its ability to help us stay hydrated. The problem is not that sports drinks are dangerous to the health of the individual windsurfer if he or she consumes a sports drink now and then.

It's just that they are not particularly healthy to drink, and there are better alternatives for most people. Furthermore, the British Medical Journal has found funding and financial ties between sports drink producers and expert advisory panels, and seriously questioned research conducted by the sports drink industry. So what's the deal here?

"The most important fluid for windsurfers is water, you'll pardon the jest," notes Henrik Beyer author of "Health & Fitness for Windsurfing."

"Water is essential for normal cellular function and thermal regulation and affects the performance of windsurfers more than any other nutrient."

The electrolytes in sport drinks are more or less useless for most people who have a healthy diet. Even more, most people consume too much sodium (salt) and sugar already in their diet and definitely do not need more through drinking sports drinks.

"Perhaps the biggest myth in this debate is that we have been told that listening to our thirst is not enough to avoid dehydration and that we should drink before we get thirsty. But the evidence shows that thirst is the best guide for hydration," adds Beyer.

Windsurfers do not need to drink ahead of thirst and doing so may even worsen performance. In fact, there is a risk of drinking too much water or any other liquid. Drinking too much water may lead to hyponatremia, which is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low.

Moreover, it is likely that we should fear overhydration more than dehydration. Overhydration has even caused several deaths amongst marathon runners whereas exercise induced dehydration has even been associated with increased performance.

One-hour long sailing sessions do not require any additional nutrients except water. The only time when windsurfers may benefit from drinking a sports drink is when sailing in hot environments for several hours or intensively every day, for a few consecutive days.

"To maintain performance and to stay healthy, drinking water and eating a healthy snack such as bananas and or a cheese sandwich in between several hours long sailing sessions, is better for most windsurfers," concludes Henrik Beyer.

Discover the best food and drinks for water sports enthusiasts.

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