Sports drinks are popular worldwide for their refreshing taste and energy-boosting effects. These beverages help replenish glycogen stores and electrolytes after exercise. Most brands contain minerals and sugar, dextrose, glucose, or other source of simple carbs. Some have up to 60 grams of sugar per serving.
Launched in the 1960s, Gatorade was the first sports drink ever created. The basic recipe contained water, sugar, salt, and lemon flavoring. Today’s sports drinks boast dozens of ingredients that are supposed to increase energy levels and stamina, speed up recovery, and enhance mental focus. Do these concoctions really hydrate better than water?
What Are Sports Drinks Good for?
During intense training, the body loses water and minerals, such as potassium and sodium. This can lead to dehydration, muscle cramps, and poor physical performance. Thus, it’s essential to replace the water and electrolytes lost during exercise. Over the years, companies began creating drinks, bars, and gels that contain sugar and minerals to provide athletes with an optimal source of fuel.
Sports drinks are marketed as a healthy way to hydrate the body and replace lost electrolytes. According to manufacturers, they are a safer alternative to soda and fruit juices. As a result, more and more people are drinking sports beverages on a daily basis. The problem with these products is that they contain large amounts of sugar and dangerous chemicals. When consumed regularly, they may increase the risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, weight gain, and metabolic disorders.
These beverages are not entirely harmful, but the risks outweigh the benefits. In general, sports drinks are recommended for training sessions longer than 60 minutes. Yet, there is no evidence that dehydration has ever killed a runner or an athlete engaging in long workouts.
The Truth about Sports Drinks
According to health experts, water is the best choice for athletes and regular gym goers. Studies have found that more than 13 percent of those who drank sports drinks during exercise had some degree of hyponatremia. Loaded with sugar, these beverages may cause insulin spikes followed by crashes.
For most people, drinking water before, during, and after exercise provides the necessary hydration. Sports drinks may help delay fatigue and replace electrolytes, but they are pretty much useless during exercise lasting less than one hour. Their quality varies from one brand to another. Some beverages are packed with sugar, dextrose, or glucose, so the calories add up. Others contain no sugar and provide optimal amounts of minerals.
Sports drinks are safe when consumed occasionally or during prolonged exercise. However, overusing them can cause more harm than good. In addition to sugar, they contain acid that attack tooth enamel and cause digestive problems.
These beverages are helpful to people who engage in long, intense workouts, but they’re not suitable for children, teens, and regular gym goers. Consuming sports drinks during zumba or step aerobics classes is useless. There are healthier alternatives available, such as coconut water, lemon water, aloe water, and homemade electrolyte beverages. Fruits, such as lime, lemon, orange, and bananas, can be mixed with water to boost its nutritional value.