Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc) have become so popular, especially among kids, that to some they are part of their daily diet. This is an incredible transformation for a beverage that was originally created for performance under the most extreme circumstances.
Certainly there are times that its use is critical for both performance and energy levels. Hopefully the recommendations below will help you see when it is the right time to turn to a sports drink, and when it isn’t.
When Sports Drinks Help
Sports drinks are essentially a supplement, something you add to your diet when you are running low on a specific nutrient.
For example, if you lack Vitamin B12 in your diet, a B12 supplement will give you more energy. If you don’t eat enough protein, a protein shake or bar will speed up recovery and growth. But without the deficiency, the supplement will do absolutely nothing for you.
Sports drinks are a supplement that quickly re-stocks your glycogen (i.e. sugar) and electrolyte (mostly sodium) supplies when you are exhausted. Used at the right time, it can re-energize an exhausted athlete or exerciser.
Those times usually happen when:
- You exercise or play a sport for more than 60 minutes straight.
- You exercise or play a sport multiple times in the same day (sports tournaments are a perfect example)
- You are outside on a hot, sunny day for an extended period of time.
When Sports Drinks Do Not Help
They are not a substitute for fresh fruit or even juice (fresh fruit is better), as it has no other nutritional value.
You will not become super-hydrated by drinking them in excess. Your best bet to stay fully hydrated is to eat right and drink the real ‘sports drink’ (see below) all day long.
More simply, sports drinks do not help AT ALL unless you have already been active for a long period of time, and/or are in extremely hot weather.
Which means consuming a sports drink usually does nothing for you other than add more sugar and sodium to a diet that is likely too full of both already.
Why? Your body is already excellent at converting food to glycogen, and as Americans our diets are already filled with sodium.
The only remaining ingredient in a sports drink is the liquid part, which is the part you should be consuming instead of that sports drink…
Water (If you’ve trained with us before, I’m sure you saw that coming…).