Sports Drinks: Friend or Foe

OHumans love their water, we need it to survive.  Still, those on the picky side of life (like, my fellow teens) get bored and want something flavored or fruity from time to time — or at least not bland.  Active, and specifically athletically conscience students, are smart enough NOT fill their bodies with what they think is junk, such as soda and sugary juices.

Unfortunately, what our athletes don’t know is that the sports drinks they are drinking are filled with elements that might quench their thirst for flavor but simultaneously diminish their playing. Many large sport drink companies like Gatorade and Powerade advertise that their drink will turn you into the ultimate athlete and improve your performance. What they aren’t telling you is HOW and whether their contents actually live up to the claims.

“Study after study has found that, in general, the additives in sports drinks have no effect on water absorption in our bodies.”-Nutrition Wonderland

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It is put in athletes’ minds that sports drinks will enhance their performance, but this may be a greatly exaggerated attitude. Sports drinks do have less sugar than soda and juice, but only by a small fraction.  Sugar does, of course, spike immediate energy fuel, but we all know that processed sugars create a surge that may be followed by a lull in performance and eventual lethargy.  It turns out that the same processed sugar found in Coca Cola is equally harmful in your sports drink.  Major companies will convince you that you are drinking a super healthy drink when in reality you are stocking your body with unnecessary sugars (assuming your diet provides these in reasonable quantities already).   The resulting sugar high will only last for a small amount of time and then send your energy levels crashing.  This is how these enticingly colored beverages and their ease in gulping them down initially lure you in; they taste good you feel like a sports drink “must be healthy.” .

Ironically, it is a common observation that people who drink sports drinks are usually not even training or competing as athletes. When non-active individuals are drinking these sugary drinks on a normal basis, child obesity levels rise as easily as they would on a diet of sugary softdrinks.  

There are also high amounts of sodium in these drinks which cause non-athletes to be at risk of high blood pressure.  Yes, sweating causes the body to loose valuable salts at a faster rate.  However you really do not need to be increading your sodium intake if you are not flushing your system of this valuable nutrient through heavy training and competition.

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A startling fact that you probably did not consider:  “A 12 oz. serving of Gatorade Thirst Quencher contains 21 grams of sugar. But because a regular bottle of Gatorade contains 32 oz., you’re actually getting 56 grams of sugar.” -HealthLine

There are a few positives in the mix.  Sports drinks aren’t all bad.  There are athletes out there who sweat more and lose electrolytes faster than others. Sports drinks do help athletes replenish those lost electrolytes.  These athletes know not to replace water with sports drinks. Nothing can replace water; the body needs water in its purest form.

The recommendation for athletes who lose electrolytes faster is to drink water during games and isolate sports drinks for after or before the exertion,  but not during.  If you drink sports drinks during a game, the excess sodium will only cause you to become dehydrated.  In extreme situations, this could lead to fainting, or worse. Your body is always yearning for water when doing something strenuous like sports or working out for a long period of time, so don’t deny the body of what it most needs: Pure, clean, and easily accessible water.

Author: Angel Lombardi

Angel Lombardi is a sophomore and this is her first year in SAS and the Eye. She was born in San Diego, California, since then she has lived in New Jersey, Canada, and New York. Outside of school she is a committed fastpitch softball player, likes to watch movies and hang with friends. She can be reached at lombardi49691@sas.edu.sg

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