The next time you go to grab a sugary sports drink to hydrate yourself after the big game, think about these questionable health effects
Turn on the television or open your favorite magazine and you’re likely to see an abundance of advertisements for Gatorade, Powerade, and other sports drinks bombarding you with claims that they’ll provide the essential nutrients needed to help you achieve a superior workout while keeping you hydrated. Thanks to these drinks’ high-profile brands (Gatorade is made by PepsiCo while Powerade is made by Coca-Cola), the splashy advertisements can be both intriguing and convincing. Unfortunately, the claims they make are often far from the truth, as many sports drinks are not really what they appear to be.
Not to be confused with caffeine-boosted energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster, sports drinks are sugar-sweetened beverages that contain sodium and other electrolytes that are lost during exercise. While they may seem harmless, a sports drink is not the best beverage choice for the casual athlete. Alana Fiorentino, RD, CDN, who is a clinical dietitian at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., states, “In addition to the fluid content, sports drinks contain a significant amount of calories, mostly from sugar, and some electrolytes including sodium and potassium. For the average person that doesn’t participate in regular high-intensity workouts, the added nutrients provide no additional benefits, and can lead to gradual weight gain over time.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine are in agreement. Both only recommend the use of sports drinks for intense exercise lasting more than an hour. For the average athlete, one who isn’t training for a triathlon but rather looking to burn off a few extra calories on the treadmill, sports drinks are not the best choice. So before you reach for your next bottle on your way to the gym, consider the following negative effects of sports drinks. You may find yourself filling up your water bottle instead.
High in Sugar
Just one 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade or Powerade can contain 200 calories and a whopping 52.5 grams of sugar. This means that chugging back a bottle of the stuff can add significant calories to your diet. So if you’re drinking a sports drink as a casual athlete, you’re likely drinking more calories than you’re burning off.
Not a Thirst Quencher
Sports drinks don’t actually quench your thirst as advertised. The reason that they may keep you more hydrated than water is because you’ll actually end up drinking more. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the taste of the drinks along with salt and other ingredients found in them actually cause people to drink more. So while you may be keeping yourself hydrated, you’re also consuming more calories than likely intended.
The acid in sports drinks erodes the teeth even more than soda, and the damage is irreversible. According to a study published in the journal General Dentistry, after just five days of consistent consumption, the acid starts destroying tooth enamel that you’ll never get back
Sports drinks’ biggest claim is that they can help prevent dehydration due to intense physical activity better than water. However, unless you’re an Olympic athlete, drinking water will more than adequately prevent dehydration during exercise. “High-sugar sports drinks can actually slow hydration,” says Lynn Fiorentino.
Hyponatremia is a serious condition that occurs when your blood has an abnormally low level of sodium. This can be caused by dehydration but more often is caused by overhydration. When Harvard studied a group of marathon runners, they found that 13 percent had some degree of hyponatremia and that those who had been drinking sports drinks were just as likely to have hyponatremia than those who had been drinking water.
One major goal of most athletes is to build muscle, but don’t turn to sports drinks if you’re looking to do so. Most sports drinks contain zero grams of protein, the nutrient that is an essential part of muscle-building.
Not Enough Electrolytes
Even though sports drinks contain electrolytes, the sugar content often cancels out their benefits. The electrolytes you need will be replenished after exercise if you eat a healthy diet. Electrolytes in sports drinks don’t have enough of an effect to compensate for the other negative effects they bring.
On top of not being significantly effective in preventing dehydration and hyponatremia, the added sodium in sports drinks can actually be harmful to the casual drinker. Sodium is already abundant in the average diet, so adding more than necessary to the diet can actually raise blood pressure and be a risk factor for stroke and heart disease
Once again the sugar in sports drinks can cause myriad problems. “High-sugar sports drinks can cause energy levels to plummet,” says Fiorentino. With so much sugar in just one bottle, sports drinks raise blood sugar levels quickly, which inevitably can cause a sugar crash, killing your energy level.
Hope this comes in handed we have all fell victim to this at some point in our training.