Skip to content

Water Drinkers VS. Drink Drinkers


While exercising, do you prefer to drink plain water or a flavored drink? Determining which camp you fall into and taking that into account when devising fueling plans for multi-hour exercise can mean the difference between success and failure. Surprisingly, it’s a question that many athletes have never really pondered when developing a fueling plan for a long, hot, and or logistically challenging event. This article and accompanying video will help you decide which paradigm fits you best and how to apply that to your fueling practices. Once you’ve determined your innate preference in this area, you can use fuels and products that suit you.

For this discussion, let’s be clear that neither style is better; it's just a case of determining your preference. The exception is when logistics override your natural inclination, i.e., you are in a self-supported situation and need to carry as many calories in as little space/weight as possible. In this case, having concentrated calories and picking up water as you go will be necessary, if not preferred.

Personally, I’m a water drinker. Absent the need for calories, I always prefer to drink plain water, especially in extreme heat conditions. However, when helping athletes with their fueling plans, nearly 50% say they would rather have some flavor/taste in their bottle to encourage them to stay hydrated. Conversely, they tend to be averse to drinking plain water, especially when it's warm out. These athletes typically have trouble with multi-hour concentrated fuel mixtures, such as gel, because they tend to also go for flavored drinks rather than water. This can lead to over-consuming calories and other misses on fluids and electrolytes.

The General Idea

Water drinkers naturally prefer to have concentrated sources of calories and electrolytes, thus allowing them to drink water to meet their hydration needs. Drink drinkers prefer all-in-one or nearly all-in-one fueling systems with the desired amount of water, calories, and electrolytes in one solution/bottle. Below are examples of how each type can fuel.

Water Drinkers

For exercise lasting one to two hours, I carry a flask of Hammer Gel, a bottle of water, and a capsule dispenser with Endurolytes, consuming each separately while riding. For longer rides, I add a multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem (1.5 scoops per hour of expected exercise) and still carry a flask of Hammer Gel for variety and added calories if needed. Refill water bottles with water along the way. This system works really well for me and anyone who prefers water. HEED and Fizz are products I do not use. Depending on temperatures, this allows me to drink 12-24 ounces per hour of plain water while still getting all the calories and electrolytes I need. However, this scenario would be problematic and unsustainable for someone who does not prefer to drink plain water.

Drink Drinkers

The drink drinkers' fueling protocol for exercise lasting for one hour or more hours usually involves "hourly" bottles that can be prepared in various ways. It can be as simple as 1 to 1.5 scoops of HEED per hour in mild conditions. 1-2 servings of Hammer Gel can also be mixed into a bottle instead of HEED. If heat stress is very high, 1-2 scoops of Endurolytes Extreme Powder can be added every hour or two. This keeps things simple in an all-in-one package.

When exercising beyond two to three hours, the hourly bottle options increase with Perpetuem and Sustained Energy as additional calorie sources, which can also be mixed into identical or different “hourly” bottles, depending on preference and logistics. This fueling format also requires forethought in determining approximately how many total calories per hour, ounces/ml of fluids, and electrolytes you'll want hourly and mixing that all into one bottle.

Hourly bottles can be a bit more complicated logistically. Still, they are necessary to keep you drinking the proper amount of fluid and simultaneously getting the calories/electrolytes you need. For more prolonged efforts, preparing "hourly" fuel bags with dry powder that can be carried and mixed along the way may also be necessary. Also, it's a good idea to have some extra electrolytes, just in case.

Hopefully, this article will give you the occasion to decide whether you are a "water drinker" or a "drink drinker." Of course, if you are unsure, call us; one of my staff or I will be happy to discuss it with you further.


Great info, thanks.
Do you have any data on how this may differ for diabetics (type2) or can you point me in the direction of some research on the subject.
Thanks again.
Hammer Nutrition replied:
Hello Cliff, Thank you for your comment. This article is mostly about thinking of how you personally prefer to fuel and hydrate while exercising and in this specific regard, insulin challenged athletes are the same. The goal is to find a fueling system that works for you and allows you to maintain stable blood sugar/glycogen levels and avoid the spikes and crashes caused by sugar that lead to an insulin reaction, aka “bonking”. I can tell you from helping both type 1 and type 2 diabetics do Ironman triathlons, race across America and every other kind of endurance event imaginable, staying away from sugars and using complex carbs, plus some protein and fat, is even more important than athletes with fully functioning pancreas. BDF


Interesting comparison. I do both I love water but I also cramp easily so I sip water, use concentrates and drink mixes in my water throughout my tennis matches. I also live in Texas and it’s about 105 every day here in our summer so fluids are lost fast.
Hammer Nutrition replied:
Hello Scott, thank you for your comment. If you would prefer to just drink water during your time on court, that is totally doable, regardless of the heat. Endurolytes and the extreme version come in capsules and can provide all of the electrolytes you need to avoid cramping and deterioration in your games. Calories can come from food or Hammer Gel, for example. BDF


Excellent short video. I’ve been using your products for 15+ years. I prefer the water but it took me a while to sort that out. These are great, please keep them coming!
Hammer Nutrition replied:
Hello Alex, thank you for you support, comments and suggestion. I’m going to do just that! "What’s your ideal McPH” is next! BDF

Alex Garcia

Nice summary. I’m a water drinker, and found your formula through trial and error, and it works great for me. However, I won’t use the Hammer flasks for gel because the top isn’t covered, and it’s impossible to reach into your jersey pocket during a ride and avoid that sticky top. Then the gel gets all over your hands and gloves, and then everything you touch. Yuck. Instead I use something like the Toob silicone mini bottles. They have a silicone valve and a cover cap; much cleaner, but they don’t have the large capacity of the Hammer flasks. Would LOVE to see Hammer produce a larger version of something like the Toob!

Hammer Nutrition replied:
Hello Andrew, thank you for your support and comments, sorry you are not enjoying the 5 serving flask so much. Some athletes complain that this flask is too big :-). However, I will note that the flask comes with a dust cap alleviates this if you keep it and don’t discard on the first use. Second, there is a technique for keeping your cap from getting sticky – After consuming some gel from the flask, close the push-pull cap with your teeth and lick/suck off any remaining gel before putting it in your pocket. I’ve practiced this for 28 years, so I know it works. BDF

Andrew Osborn

Another relevant topic of discussion Brian. After 30+ years of all this, I am still working this out. Best

john cavoulas

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

All Endurance News Weekly >

You have no items in your shopping cart.
Click here to continue shopping.