It started with Gatorade, then a whole list of sports drinks came out. Just because it’s a “sports” drink is it healthy? Just like anything else there is a balance.
Why are they needed? Are they a healthy alternative to something else? When should I drink them? Let’s first talk about if they are healthy and then why sports drinks were created.
Are Sports Drinks Healthy?
Let’s think about what makes something healthy. Something is “healthy” when it provides something we truly need. Sports drinks usually consist of water, sugar, and electrolytes at the bare minimum, which in someway shape or form, we do “need” those things. Water is something we need everyday, electrolytes are responsible for getting water into and out of cells, and sugar (although preferable with fiber) is your cells number 1 source of energy and what is burned the quickest for energy.
Why Were They Created?
They are used for athletes or those that will be exerting a high amount of energy or are in a position to where they can become dehydrated easily. Why do sports drinks help with this? Sports drinks were meant to be quick and easy way to hydrate, maintain electrolyte balance, and have a quick digestible source of sugars for energy and endurance. All of those things would be used right away for athletes or anyone exerting high amounts of energy.
When Should I Drink Them?
Unless you are in a race, sport, training, or needing to exert high amounts of energy for hours on a job, water is the better option. (Or water with electrolytes without the sugar) The other reason you might want a sports drink is if you will be somewhere where dehydration might be a reality. For instance, if you are going to an outdoor concert in the middle of summer and it’s going to be 90+ degrees F. More than likely you will be sweating a lot. When we sweat we loose electrolytes and water. So to help keep us from becoming dehydrated in those instances something like a sports drink could be good to consume. If you can find a water + electrolyte drink without sugar, it would be the better way to go if you are going to be sweating but not exerting energy.
You still have to be aware of the amount of sugar. Natural sugars come from sources that have water and fiber with the sugar that will be consumed like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Drinking sugar without having a need to replace any glucose or glycogen (body’s storage of sugar) because of exerting energy will be excess sugar, and thus can raise your blood sugar to quickly and you can crash. The other thing is that since it will be excess sugar, it can be stored as fat to be used later.
Sports drinks have a purpose, however if you are not going to be exerting energy it can be just as good for you as a soda. Know why they are used and use them in the right way and they can be a good option. The other thing is that even if you are training, in a race, or on a hot job that requires energy, energy drinks should not be the only thing you consume. Still drink water and have a sports drink here and there. Your body uses water the most out of any other substance so make sure you still drink plain water.