DateJuly 30, 2014
commentNo comment by Author, Razvan Stancea
Are Sports Drinks Unnecessary?

A recently published article from CBC News states that sports drinks are unnecessary and counterproductive for most people. When you reach for a sports drink after your workout, you may be potentially cancelling out all the hard work you just did at the gym.

Most people don’t sweat hard enough during their workout (unless operating at a high cardio and strength training level) to actually need a sports drink. Sports physiologist Dr. Greg Wells states: “The benefit of getting physically active – [which] improves your body composition, makes you healthier, makes you fitter and all that – that’s fantastic, but unfortunately, drinking sugary, salty drinks actually does the opposite to the average person.”

Sports drinks can also be high in sugar and sodium – many contain nearly 50 grams of sugar per serving, which is more than 10 teaspoons of sugar. These drinks also contain over 330 mg of sodium. Break that down: you are basically drinking ten teaspoons of sugar, food coloring, and more sodium than a medium fry from McDonald’s. How can that be healthy?

Sports drinks disguise their potentially harmful ingredients under clever marketing, broadcasting their rehydration abilities and how they can send energy to your muscles – but that latter bit is done in the form of sugar. These sports drinks also claim to be packed with electrolytes, much-needed nutrients for your body.

Popular Sports Drinks for the Average Joe

Popular drinks, like Gatorade, are chosen specifically for their believed ability to give you that needed, extra “fuel,” especially if you are an athlete. Gatorade claims that the drink is “scientifically formulated” and provides “optimal quantities of sodium, potassium, and carbohydrate to support exercise.” Powerade states that it has an “advanced electrolyte system designed to help replenish four electrolytes lost in sweat.”

Electrolytes are minerals, like potassium and sodium, which have an electrical charge. They are extremely important for our bodies to function properly. When you sweat, you can lose these electrolytes – either via exercise, sick, or out in the hot sun.

CBC News Marketplace tested how many electrolytes are lost during exercise by gathering a team of amateur runners together and testing their blood before and after a 45-minute run. The runners did not deplete their glucose or electrolyte levels enough to need sports drinks to replenish them. In some cases, electrolyte and glucose levels even increased in the blood. Thus, the runners could have benefitted solely from drinking water. Researchers from the Human Physiology Research Unit at the University of Toronto, who have worked with elite athletes, state that the body is good at giving itself what it needs during moderate itself.

Marketplace also tested the blood of a triathlete during intense cycling and found that it took about two hours of strenuous activity before she would benefit from a sports drink.

Sports Drinks Do Well With the Pros

Sports drinks are actually designed for professional athletes – those who excessively sweat and have intense, multiple workouts per day. The sodium in the sports drinks helps balance out fluid absorption, and while some drinks do contain sugar to fuel muscles, companies will also provide a variety of no-or-low calorie beverages to appeal to a wide range of consumers. That way, a sports drink customer can choose the right product for them based on their own individual caloric needs.

Sports drinks do regulate electrolyte levels well, and will rehydrate you and give you the sugar and energy you need while working out. But for the average Joe working out in the gym, all you really need is good, old-fashioned water.

While these drinks are available everywhere, from your supermarket to gas station, only a select few athletes really need them – and those are the ones exercising for longer than 90 minutes. Water is generally all your body needs during a workout in order for your blood is circulate and your muscles to do their job.

Popular Electrolyte Drinks for Kids

Electrolyte-packed, replenishing drinks are great for kids when they are excessively sweating or ill, or in heat and humidity for longer than 60 minutes – that’s where healthy drinks like Leolyte come in. Leolyte is not a sports drink and contains more sodium to aid in ending dehydration in kids, and does not contain excessive sugar. While it’s not a dehydration cure, it does help in replenishing kids’ bodies with the necessary electrolytes they need to get healthier, faster. 

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