Conscious Consumer: Sports Drinks

James Cantu

February 7th, 2018

The Texas Rangers’ Elvis Andrus (1) and Rougned Odor (12) shower Jonathan Lucroy (25) with water and sports drink. — Photo provided by Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS

So you’ve just finished a workout or just want something sweet to drink, but don’t want the carbonation of pop, so you pick up a sports drink from the diner or Cougar Fuel thinking it to be the healthier alternative to juice or pop. After all, it has electrolytes! Whatever that means, but it seems important enough to advertise.

Sports drinks aren’t inherently better for you than water when it comes to post work out refreshments. Most sports drinks contain as much as two-thirds the amount of sugar a can of pop has.

In fact, a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher contains 56 grams of sugar, along with being produced with petroleum based food dyes like Red No. 40, Blue No. 1, and Yellow No. 5. The sugary drink, when consumed frequently, can also lead to tooth decay, and the dyes have been linked to cancer.

Even if it is advertised as low calorie, low sugar, it may contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which has been documented to be worse for you than fructose. When the body receives such a high intake of sugar post workout, it will negatively affect your insulin sensitivity and your human growth hormone (HGH) production.

In addition to affecting our insulin sensitivity and HGH production, following that “sugar rush” will be the inevitable “sugar crash.”  This crash is due to your pancreas and other glands rushing to create a balance from all the sugar that was introduced into your bloodstream. All of which creates that drop which makes you feel lethargic and possibly sleepy.

An excess of sugar has also been linked to weight gain, which would be counterproductive if you just hit the gym.

Not only do many sports drinks contain an excess of sugar, they also contain too much sodium. In theory, the sodium in the sports drinks would serve to replenish all the lost electrolytes you’ve sweated out, but the sodium used in most sports drinks come from processed salt.

A healthier alternative that doesn’t involve consuming excess sugar would be adding a small amount of natural, unprocessed sea salt to your workout water bottle or drinking coconut water. Coconut water is the richest natural source of electrolytes to date.

Healthline reported a study from the University of California, Berkeley that says that, “sports drinks might be better than water for children and athletes who engage in prolonged, vigorous physical activity for more than one hour, especially in hot conditions. However, you should note that those exercising less than 60 to 90 minutes may not need Gatorade to maintain or improve performance.”

Now for those of us who don’t live at the gym or do a rigorous amount of exercise that result in a profuse amount of sweat on a relatively frequent basis, water is your best bet to maintain hydration; Preferably drinking out of a reusable water bottle instead of picking up a plastic disposable one from the diner, but that’s a different article for a different time.

James Cantu

Opinions Editor

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