Sports drinks are a healthy choice?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Sports drinks are the best choice for hydration when playing sports.
WHAT WE KNOW
Who doesn’t want to “be like Mike”? This marketing scheme has made sugary sports drinks the craze among athletes. However, athletes aren’t the only ones who believe this. Studies have shown that teens (not just athletes) with healthy habits are more likely to drink sugar-sweetened sports drinks than sodas, suggesting that they perceive these beverages to be consistent with a healthy lifestyle.
So are sports drinks a healthy choice? When comparing the nutritional difference between soda and sugar-sweetened sports drinks, the sugar content is not much different! Sport drinks tend to contain a little less sugar than soda, but the amount of sugar is still significant!
What about hydration? We do know that athletes should be hydrating themselves adequately before, during and after a game or practice. Most athletes believe that sports drinks hydrate the body better than water. There are many reasons behind this theory, but currently there is no significant evidence that states sports drinks are superior to water in terms of hydration.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A study reported in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport compared the hydration ability of three different sports drinks to water. Subjects between the ages of 18 to 35 with varying levels of physical activity were studied. The study found that when compared to water, the sports drinks used in this study did not hydrate the body faster.¹
In another article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers compared commercially-formulated water, bottled water, and a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage to see their effect on hydration. Blood and urinary markers were used to assess hydration. The study showed that not one of the beverages hydrated the body better than another.²
The next time you’re headed to the field, be sure to bring water! For most casual athletes, water is the best choice to stay hydrated! However, when exercising extremely strenuously in really hot weather for more than 90 minutes (continuously), a sports drink may be needed but for most athletes this is not the case.
The most important steps to take when preparing for any sport …
- Keep hydrated all day long (bring your water bottle with you!).
- Eat a balanced diet (rich in fruits and veggies) for the best performance at a game or practice.
- Don’t play/practice on an empty stomach—grab a nutritious snack about half an hour before (fruits and veggies are a great choice).
- Limit your intake of added sugars (soda, sweetened drinks, etc.)—these don’t provide a good source of energy to keep you going strong throughout practice or a game.
Did you know that fruits and vegetables are composed mostly of water? They can help you meet your daily fluid recommendation as well! Fruits and veggies are great sideline snacks too!
¹ Hill, RJ, Bluck, LJ, Davies, PS. “The hydration ability of three commercially available sports drinks and water.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2008); 11: 116-23.
² Valiente, JS, Utter, AC, Quindry, JC, Nieman, DC. “Effects of commercially formulated water on the hydration status of dehydrated collegiate wrestlers.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2009); 23(8). 2210-6.