Why You Need To Ditch The Sports Drinks NOW
Written by: Jessica Brown
Since 1967, when the football team Florida Gators attributed their winning of the Orange Bowl to Gatorade, sports drinks have been advertised as the athletic equivalent of WD-40 – just use it for everything! Marathons, hangovers, general workouts, you name it and you should be drinking the sugary concoction to “Go stronger for longer.”
But recently, these drinks have come under attack by doctors and researchers who say that the extra sugar and calories are simply not necessary for a moderate (less than 90 minutes) workout.
In fact, David K. Spierer, assistant professor of sports sciences at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, says water works just as well!
So, should the average gym-goer even worry about electrolyte replenishing? Let’s take a look.
What Is An Electrolyte?
An electrolyte is a substance that, when dissolved in water, conducts electricity. These substances are absolutely vital for our bodies, which run on electricity and athletes in particular are interested in improving the electric potential governing their muscles and metabolism. When a person engages in strenuous and/or lengthy physical activity, these electrolytes (most commonly sodium, calcium and potassium) can be lost through sweat.
Sport Drink Solution
Because athletes can lose these electrolytes through sweat, causing dehydration, cramps and fatigue, electrolytes need to be replenished. Thus the sports drink was born.
In 1965, Gatorade was invented in a sports lab at the University of Florida. Originally consisting of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate and lemon juice, this nectar was hailed as the hydration solution for the Florida Gators, who gave the drink credit for their win in 1967.
As the craze gained popularity, other sports drink companies popped up, including Powerade, Vitaminwater and Propel, to name a few. However, as with many other products, sports drink companies quickly learned that they could lower production costs by using artificial sweeteners and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Now sports drinks can share many of the same ingredients as soft drinks!
Is It Necessary?
Now, if sports drinks are so controversial, why not just cut them out completely? Well, because they have a point.
With high intensity workouts gaining popularity, such as High Intensity Interval Training workouts, Crossfit, Ragnar, etc., more people are beginning to perform at a higher level for their daily workouts. This means longer and more intense workouts are becoming the norm; and, what do we know about longer, more intense workouts? They make people sweat! So, more people are beginning to need these electrolytes replenished on a daily basis.
But is it really a sports drink they are looking for? Sports drinks certainly can improve endurance and reduce perceived exertion, but it is not necessarily because of increased hydration.
A 2009 study done by researchers at University of Birmingham showed that cyclists could pedal faster and for a longer period of time after gargling with a sugary drink than with water or a drink containing artificial sweeteners. This is because the perceived calories activated the reward system in the brain, canceling out the perceived pain and allowing the athlete to continue at a vigorous pace.
So, what do we learn from this?
Athletes need to replace electrolytes to stay hydrated and maintain blood volume, but they also need a little something during workouts to boost performance.
The Alternative Solution
The key to replenishing electrolytes lost during intense exercise is whole foods.
The elements that are lost through sweat during workouts (water, sodium, potassium and calcium) can be quickly replenished by eating foods that contain these nutrients.
Examples of good sources of sodium include one ounce of olives, lightly salted nuts, or pumpkin seeds. Excellent sources of calcium and potassium include organic milk, Greek yogurt, bananas and dark leafy greens. For the best results, try combining these foods such as Greek yogurt topped with pumpkin seeds, or a salad with nuts.
During long, intense workouts, be sure to rehydrate by trying some all-natural recipes for electrolyte-rich drinks. These drinks are also great if you have little ones who get tired of drinking water during those hot summer months!
So, do you think sports drinks are worth it? Do you have an awesome recipe for an all-natural electrolyte drink? Please comment and share!
Jessica Brown’s health journey began her freshman year of college when she realized that, without high school sports, the “freshman 15” would soon find it’s way into her life and she refused to let that happen. She dove into nutrition and health and fell in love with the world of whole foods and weightlifting. After graduating with a degree in Neuropsychology, she continued learning about health and the mind-body connection.
Years later, she is continuing her Fitlife journey with her husband of five years and a recent addition to their family, a beautiful daughter. She’s eager to inspire and educate people as to the benefits of a whole-body lifestyle and researching the latest information on a daily basis.
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