I remember my high school field hockey coach lecturing my team about the dangers of Gatorade. “Gatorade is poison,” she used to say. Though I followed her advice and stuck to water for the season, I always wondered if water was actually the better choice for athletes.
Gatorade and other sports drinks are meant to keep athletes hydrated while working out. They contain a combination of sodium and other minerals which are supposed to replenish the minerals you lose when exercising, especially in excessive heat. By ensuring that your body has all of these minerals, it can recover from an intense workout more quickly.
In a study done by Military Medicine, scientists compared the benefits of water to those of a carbohydrate-electrolyte fluid replacement drink, similar to Gatorade or Powerade, when exercising in intense heat. In this study, scientists found that the carbohydrate-electrolyte fluid replacement drink helped to improve endurance over long periods of time, but it did not actually help rehydrate the body.
Basically, drinking a sports drink during your daily run is not going to hydrate you any better than water. Sports drinks are meant for hardcore athletes (Gatorade was originally created for a college football team), not for the average person who goes running for an hour every day. If you like to partake in extreme exercise or do marathons then drinking a sports drink can help to improve your performance.
Most sports drinks do not have a high calorie count, but they do have a lot of sugar. In one bottle of Gatorade there are 14 grams of sugar; the same as in one Oreo. If you want to make your workout a little healthier try one of these alternatives to your regular sports drink:
- If you like drinking a sports drink because of the flavor, try adding a slice of lime or lemon to the water. It will add flavor without adding calories.
- During longer workouts, alternate between drinking water and a sports drink so that you can get the best of both worlds.
- Drinking some juice after exercising can help to replenish the minerals and electrolytes you lose when you work out.
By Fiona O’Connor