A Few Words...On 'Sports Drinks'February 04, 2013
Let’s spend a few minutes talking about ‘sports drinks’…
You don’t need to drink Gatorade, and/or other sports/'hydration' drinks, to stay hydrated.
As part of their marketing message, they claim you need them to perform better. The logic behind this claim is that, after rigorous activity, your body loses various nutrients that can be replenished through ‘oral rehydration therapy’- the formal medical term for drinking a solution of water and the aforementioned nutrients. Most popular among these ‘sports drinks’ is Gatorade. The original mixture was invented in the 1960’s by researchers at the University of Florida for their athletic program. The original solution was composed of a mixture of salt, sugar, and water, with the citrus-based flavoring and food coloring added. Currently, Gatorade contains water, sucrose (table sugar), dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, and flavoring/coloring ingredients; some Gatorade flavor variations use brominated vegetable oil as a stabilizer.
An admittedly biased source.
The nutrients, in theory, do help rehydrate a body after rigorous activity. But these ingredients are only beneficial at that point, and, can be sourced from higher quality, healthier sources. The point at which these nutrients need to be replenished is a point most people don’t generally get to. Ingesting these ingredients via ‘sports drink’, indiscriminately, on a regular basis, is unnecessary and, at times, unhealthy. Ingesting these sweetened blends of sugars, salts, and brominated vegetable oil, during times of nonactivity leads to high blood pressure, insulin spikes, weight gain, and tooth decay. In fact, on tooth enamel, Gatorade is significantly more corrosive than Red Bull and Coke.(2,3,4)
Recently PepsiCo, maker of Gatorade, was petitioned to stop using the ingredient brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an industrial ingredient used in other products as a flame retardant.(5) It has been illegal to use in foods and beverages in the European Union and Japan since the 1970’s, but in the US our FDA is often decades behind on the consumer protections found in other countries. For example, here(6) and here(7), you can read more about a number of chemicals/additives that are illegal elsewhere but, for some reason, still legal to be put into our food and drinks in America.
PepsiCo has stated that over the next 6-12 months, BVO will be replaced by sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which is currently a popular additive used in hair care, cosmetic, and skin care products.
More ‘sports drinks’:
Another popular ‘rehydration’ drink is coconut water. The marketing claims purport it to be ‘Mother Nature’s sports drink’ and that it has ‘more potassium than a banana’. Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, however, disagrees with its claimed advantage as a hydration beverage. Clark says coconut water, low in carbohydrates and sodium and rich in potassium, is not exactly what athletes need when exercising rigorously.
“Whether you choose a sports drink, coconut water, or plain water, they all work to keep your body hydrated. The challenge is when you exercise strenuously for more than three hours in the heat and lose lots of body fluids, you need easily absorbed carbs for quick energy and to replace lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium,” Clark says.
Neither coconut water nor sports drinks contain enough sodium or carbs for the heavy perspirer. “Supplement with a quick source of energy like a banana or some raisins and a handful of pretzels to provide nutrients to replenish your stores,” Clark says.
Recovery starts before exercise begins. “Most people don’t need to worry about calories, potassium, or sodium. Eat a bagel with peanut butter to get food into your system before and drink plenty of water during exercise,” Clark says. If you exercise for prolonged periods, she suggests eating salty pretzels and raisins or other portable sources of energy.(8)
On the topic of potassium, coconut water does indeed have more potassium than a banana, but what does that exactly mean? Well, the daily recommended value for potassium is 3500mg. A medium banana has 420-460mg of potassium. A 14oz serving of Zico coconut water has 569mg of potassium(9). More potassium? Yes. Is it necessary? Not really. What they fail to tell you is that a number of regular foods naturally have more potassium than a banana, as well as a host of other helpful nutrients that coconut water lacks. Here’s a few(10):
1. Potato (1,081 mg)
2. Winter squash (896 mg)
3. Spinach (839 mg)
4. Baked beans (752 mg)
5. Raisins (544 mg)
6. Avocados (540 mg)
7. Yogurt, low-fat (531 mg)
8. Orange juice (496 mg)
9. Cantaloupe (494 mg)
10. Tuna (484 mg)
So far, to recap, we’ve researched ‘sports drinks’ and ‘hydration beverages’ and found them to be, generally, unnecessary. Lastly, let’s research ‘hydration supplements’. HDX Hydration Mix claims it is “The New App For Total Hydration” and a “groundbreaking natural product provides sustained endurance and cognitive focus, stimulates recovery, regulates insulin, fights free radicals, and replenishes and re-balances the electrolytes you lose during intense activities.” Each ‘serving’ is sugar-packet sized and the 2 largest ingredients are Isomaltulose (Palatinose™) and Crystalline Fructose, 2 synthetic sugar substitutes.(11) Each serving is mixed in water, which, we presume, provides the actual claimed ‘hydration’.
‘Sports drinks’, coconut water, and ‘hydration supplements’ are not necessary for most people. In general, water will rehydrate your body better, faster, and healthier than any of these options. In the event a person does participate in vigorous activity and perspires for longer than 3 hours, you can make your own simple, healthy, nutritional ‘sports drink’ using natural ingredients. With some filtered water, honey, salt, and fruit, you can make a drink that rehydrates you better, and healthier, than any corporate store-bought concoction. See the video below:
The first 2 minutes contain great information about nutritionally fueling your body, the sports drink recipe starts at around 2:08.
More homemade sports drink recipes can also be found here.(13)
It's not that we dislike any of these products, heck we've drank literally hundreds of gallons of Gatorade in our collective lifetimes here at DP, but we just think there are always smarter and healthier ways of doing things. If you feel the same way, feel free to pass on the info. Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your opinions/thoughts/stories with us.