I received an e-mail from a patient this weekend asking my advice on sports drinks and since I’ve gotten that question before, I thought I should do a post on it. My answer to anyone asking about sports drinks is simple – stop wasting your money!
Sports drinks bring in over $7.5 billion a year and claim all sorts of benefits such as improved athletic performance, increased energy, and superior hydration. As a result of impressive marketing campaigns, many people are mistakenly fooled into thinking these drinks are healthy and necessary. I’d like to state for the record that they are neither healthy nor necessary!
The vast majority of sports drinks typically contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of regular soda and much more sodium. That is NOT healthy by any means! They often also contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavours, and food colouring. Unfortunately, none of these ingredients belong in your body, let alone your child’s.
These drinks might be referred to as “energy” boosters but in actuality, the sugar they contain does the opposite. It might provide you with a huge explosion of energy but that is followed by an intense and dangerous plummet. Ultimately, your organs must then deal with the roller coaster of toxic stimulation to your blood sugar levels. And if your sports drink is labelled as low calorie and sugar-free, it likely contains some form of artificial sweetener which can be even worse than high-fructose corn syrup or sugar. In many ways, drinking these fancy sports drinks is not much different than guzzling a can of soda.
Most sports drinks also contain large amounts of processed salt to replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating. However, unless you’re sweating profusely and for a prolonged period, that extra salt is simply unnecessary and possibly harmful. It is only when you have been exercising for longer than 45 minutes or at an extreme intensity (such as your full exertion level) that you may need something more than water to replace electrolytes in your body. Anything less than 45 minutes will not result in a large enough fluid loss to justify using these high-sodium, high sugar drinks.
The truth is that less than one percent of those who use sports drinks actually benefit from them. The best option for most people is water. It will replenish and rehydrate your body much more effectively than most other drinks out there. In the event that you are sweating profusely and seriously need to replace electrolytes, the drink I would recommend is fresh coconut water. Fresh coconut water is one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man. Even more importantly, it’s natural and there is nothing artificial or chemical about it. There is simply nothing healthy or beneficial about overloading our bodies (and our children’s bodies) with potentially harmful toxins or chemicals. Stick to natural sources whenever you can and you will be much better off.
I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion around sports drinks. If you have any questions, please let me know. I always welcome new post suggestions and I can only answer those questions that I know about – so get in touch! It is only when you are fully informed that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your families!