Sometimes I shudder when I see the commercials on TV promoting Sport Drinks (ex. Gatorade, Powerade). From the advertising you would assume that drinking these magic cocktails is essential when you are exercising. Well to put it bluntly they are not necessary at all, and are actually counterproductive for most average exercisers.
The companies would have you believe that you will perform better, last longer, and really shouldn’t exercise without rehydrating with their ‘scientific’ formula. There is a lot these companies are not telling you.
In order to require sugar and electrolyte replacement your exercise session needs to be 90 minutes plus in duration, high intensity, and in the heat. If you are honest with yourself for most people this is rarely the case. There are no absolutes. If you are out in the cold exercising for 2 hours and not sweating a lot you would be fine with just water. If you are exercising for 60 minutes on the beach doing sprint intervals and it’s super hot out you might need a bit of electrolyte sport drink with your water.
These drinks are terrible for kids. They have way too much salt and way too much sugar. Kids sweat considerably less than adults and are rarely involved in prolonged intense exercise lasting more than 90 minutes.
Hydration is really important for everyone, buy if you are an average person doing your typical gym workout, spin class, yoga class, and seawall run water is all you need. Most people are not aware that an average bottle of Gatorade contains 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons – that’s not a typo), and 330 mg sodium (that’s more salt than a medium order of MacDonald’s fries).
Research as shown many times that 45 -60 minutes of your typical type of exercise does not deplete sugar and electrolyte levels in the blood and that for many people this amount of exercise actually leads to an increased level of blood sugar and electrolyte. When you add more sugar and salt when it’s not needed you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Most people are looking to burn calories from exercise so why shoot yourself in the foot by ingesting close to half the calories you are burning. Say you burn 500 calories during your workout, but you drink 200 calories in order to ‘rehydrate’ yourself. You might as well have only done half the workout.
- Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercise
- If you need flavor, put some lemon or cucumber slices in your water bottle.
- Remember that sport drinks were originally made for elite endurance athletes (3 + hour bike races, ironman triathlons, marathons, 3 hour tennis matches). When you are performing and training at those levels you need sugar and electrolytes with your water.
- If it’s hot and you are sweating a lot during your training try using half or one third strength sport drink (mix it with more water).
- If you are the average guy/gal and you drink sports drinks during exercise you might as well have a can of pop as it will be just as useful to you.
- Don’t be fooled by the massive marketing machine, ask a professional trainer if you need an electrolyte replacement drink for your training sessions.