Are Sports Drinks Healthy or Necessary?
We see winning coaches get drenched with a cooler of Gatorade, but is it the drink for everyday people? Lately, the necessity and healthfulness of sports drinks has come under fire. With empty calories from added sugars and artificial colors and flavors, sports drinks are losing their luster as a staple of a healthy lifestyle.
Who Needs a Sports Drink?
Sports drinks, like Gatorade, are intended to improve athletic performance by replacing fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat and carbohydrates burned for energy These re-hydration drinks contain mineral electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and a source of easily digested carbohydrate, usually sugar, to restock energy stores.
Elizabeth Quinn, About.com Guide to Sports Medicine, writes to athletes, “To stay well hydrated, drink 1/2 to 3/4 cups of fluid every 15-20 minutes during exercise; in long endurance training or events it is helpful to use a sports drink to replenish lost fluid and sodium. The International Olympics Committee recommends adding sports drinks when exercise lasts more than one hour. No one said anything about sports drinks for the casual exerciser. For that group, water is the fluid of choice.
Well Intentioned Buyers
People seem to be missing the fact that sports drinks are high in sugar and have little or no nutritional value. In fact, many folks believe the opposite, that sports drinks are healthy. A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that, compared to soda drinkers, adolescents who drink sports beverages actually do consume more fruits and vegetables and get more exercise. The authors conclude, “The coexistence of these beverages with healthy behaviors...points to the success of marketing and advertising efforts to link sports drinks with a healthy lifestyle.”
Left Wanting More
A Vanderbilt University student writing about Gatorade claims that the type sodium and glucose in the sports beverage encourages people to drink to excess. “The small amount of sodium found in Gatorade encourages people to drink beyond the point at which "mouth thirst" is satisfied. Not only is the sodium a factor in increased voluntary fluid intake but the flavor and sweetness...” have a role as well. But at 50 calories in an 8 ounce serving, drinkers take note, and also notice the studies that show sports drinks can lead to dental caries.
A Word About Energy Drinks
Sports drinks are different from 'energy drinks' that have at least one stimulant on the ingredient list. The stimulant is usually caffeine although it could be guarana or yerba mate too. Energy drinks often contain a blend of herbs, nutrients and additives. A special article in Pediatrics warns of the potentially serious adverse effects of energy drinks.
The Bottom Line: While sports drinks can help competitive athletes, students taking gym class and casual exercisers simply do not need them. Sports drinks add extra empty calories. Water is the best re-hydration drink fro most exercisers.
Do you go for water or sports drinks?
The side effects of allergy medications keep some people from using them. Natural remedies can be a great alternative, but some are more effective than others.