Sports Drinks or Water?

Sports Drinks or Water?

Commercial sports drinks can be very expensive and may not be the most healthy choice.  They are loaded with sugar and food dyes!

Who cares? I’ll tell you why you should care through a situation I observed a couple years ago.

During my son’s baseball game that I was watching, this ‘5ish’ year old was wandering around trying to find things to do while his dad coached the boys’ game. This boy (let’s call him Jack) was able to keep himself busy for awhile but baseball games are long! He was really trying to keep busy and out of people’s way. Anyway, about half way into the game, Jack found a large, orange flavoured Gatorade sitting in his dad’s bag, pulled it out and drank a few big gulps. Well the next 20 minutes were so interesting to watch from a nutritionist’s perspective – and very frustrating to watch from the ‘average parent’s perspective. This boy went from ‘bored’ boy to a wild and crazy kid! His behaviour escalated to the point he was intentionally kicking dirt into the direction of the parents watching, running up and down the field, leaping over the bench and getting into everything the could! It was so clear to me what just happened. Food dyes and or sugar can impact some kids very significantly…and can impact their behaviour to the point they can’t control their actions. Jack was not upsetting the parent’s on purpose. Boy did he get in trouble when his dad finished up coaching but I’ll have to say that I kinda felt sorry for him because it wasn’t his fault. The research is there… as in this study.

So let’s talk about sports drinks because they aren’t going away!

Sports drinks are helpful for replacing fluids after exercise and for providing the body with energy, particularly for athletes who train twice a day or for anyone who has experienced fluid losses due to prolonged exercise. (>60 minutes). Here is an informative blog on how electrolytes work in the body.

Why can’t we just drink more water to re-hydrate?  The problem with simply drinking water is that is causes a drop in blood osmolality (dilutes the sodium in the blood), reducing your sense of thirst and increasing urination.  As a result, you may stop drinking before fully re-hydrated.

Fluid replacement drinks are dilute solutions of electrolytes and sugars.  There are 2 versions that I will mention here.  The first option is a Hypotonic drink mix which is more dilute and therefore absorbed faster than plain water.  It contains less than 4 g of carbohydrate/100ml.  The second option is an Isontonic drink mix (a typical sports drink) and is absorbed as fast as, or faster than plain water.  It contains between 4-8 g of carbohydrate/100ml. Isotonic drinks provide the ideal compromise between rehydration and refuelling.  (Sports Nutrition, Anita Bean, 2009)

See below for some simple home-made versions of post-exericse fluid replacement drinks.

Hypotonic Drink Mix

  • 250 ml fruit juice
  • 750 ml water
  • 1-1.5 g (1/4 tsp) fine sea salt

Isotonic Drink Mix

  • 500 ml fruit juice
  • 500 ml water
  • 1-1.5 g (1/4 tsp) fine sea salt

Or, try coconut water, which is a fantastic natural fluid replacement.  As studies indicate, coconut water enhanced with sodium is just as effective at post-exercise rehydration as sports drinks. Another study shows that coconut water is easier to consume and causes less nausea.  Give any of the mentioned options a try!

Linda Ljucovic, Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Oakville

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