Sweat drips from your forehead as you round the track and finish your daily run. You’re feeling weak and thirsty. You walk slowly to your gym bag and grab the sports drink you’ve been waiting to consume since you started your workout. The brightly-colored fluid instantly replenishes your electrolytes and quenches your thirst.
In this situation, sports drinks were the perfect combination of hydration and nutrients for a hard-working body. But, in most situations, sports drinks can add harmful amounts of sugar and sodium to your diet.
Scott & White Wellness Program manager, Alex Hainzinger, offers sports drink consumers some helpful tips on when this tasty beverage is necessary and when to just say no.
1. Sports drinks help delay fatigue
If someone is participating in a high-intensity sporting event or workout, a sports drink can help replenish much-needed fluids and electrolytes that are lost while sweating.
“Sports drinks also provide readily available carbohydrates to the working muscles, which is very important when it comes to an athlete’s performance,” Hainzinger said.
2. Sports drinks contain high amounts of sugar
While these athlete-inspired drinks also contain nutrients like sodium and potassium, which are crucial to the athletic body, they also contain high amounts of sugar.
“On average, sports drinks are 50 calories and contain about three tablespoons of sugar per cup.”
3. There can be too much of a good thing
The average American consumes far too much sugar and sodium, the wellness expert said, and consuming sports drinks during moderate exercise like walking on the treadmill or doing yard work, can actually do more harm than good.
“Too much sugar and sodium can be detrimental to your health,” Hainzinger said. “You can put yourself at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even tooth decay.”
4. Not for non-athletes
Sports drinks are a helpful tool for those who participate in high-intensity exercise on a regular basis. But the wellness program manager only recommends these high-sugar beverages for those who are serious athletes or working out in hot conditions.
“If a person is working out for a long time, having some extra calories like the ones provided in sports drinks isn’t a bad idea,” Hainzinger said.
5. Reach for water first
The best alternative fluid replacement is fresh water.
“However, there are lower calorie options such as “diet” sports drink options,” he said. “These are normally artificially sweetened to help cut calories. The benefit is that they still get electrolytes and fluid but fewer calories.”
6. Don’t drink sports drinks if you want to lose weight
If your main goal is to lose weight, sports drinks are not going to help you achieve that goal.
“The goal with weight loss is to use the calories you already have, not to consume more calories than you can actually burn in a workout,” Hainzinger said. “So, limit how many sports drinks you consume and get plenty of water. Water is always the best option.”