Are Sports Drinks Right for You?

We've all watched as our favorite pro athletes, bathed in sweat, guzzle those bright green and blue sports drinks on the sidelines. In fact, the companies that market those drinks and provide them to the pro sport leagues free of charge are counting on it. But just as there are some fundamental differences between your game and that of Cam Newton or LeBron James, there are some fundamental reasons why sports drinks work for them and work against you.

“Sports drinks can replenish some of what you lost during exercise, but you really need to be exercising for more than 45 minutes to an hour before you would consider that,” said Dr. Matthew Silvis, director of primary care sports medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Most of just don't play hard enough or long enough to require our hydration to come with all the extra sugar and salt found in the typical sports drink. The high sodium levels typically found in sports drinks is in the form of processed salts meant to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat, but the majority of “weekend athletes” simply don't require that much “replenishment.”

And while we have been conditioned to believe that sports drinks are the best way to replenish these fluids and electrolytes lost while exercising, many of them contain as much as two-thirds of the sugar found in soda. While all that sugar may provide the boost these so-called “energy drinks” promote, it will not be very long before your energy level will takes a nose-dive. That sinking feeling is your pancreas and other glands revving into overdrive as they do all they can to balance out the toxic stimulation to your blood sugar that the drinks provide.

Smart alternatives to sports drinks, while not available in neon blue, are inexpensive and easily obtained. Water is still the best method of hydration. Add a little natural, unprocessed sea salt to your water bottle and you can also taken in 84 different minerals and trace minerals that your body needs that are not found in most sports drinks' processed salt.

Coconut water is another superior option. It is one of the highest sources of electrolytes, natural or lab-made, found anywhere on earth. It is even used as an intravenous drip for critically ill patents in some parts of the world.

Sources:  Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center