Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Electolytes and Sports Drinks...when are they really necessary?

“Electrolyte drinks containing sodium and potassium salts replenish the body's water and electrolyte levels after dehydration caused by exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, diaphoresis, diarrhea, vomiting, intoxication or starvation.  Athletes exercising in extreme conditions (for three or more hours continuously e.g. marathon or triathlon) who do not consume electrolytes risk dehydration.*
*Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 33 (2): 290–298. 2008.   Author J,Estevez E,Baquero E,Mora-Rodriguez R"

Just read that first statement again: Athletes exercising in extreme conditions. 

Gatorade was developed in 1965 when the then head football coach requested that the College of Medicine develop something to act as a hydrating replacement during physical exertion during those hot, hot Florida days.  College athletes – who run 3-a-days in the Florida heat. 

For the 98.3% of us who are not professional athletes there is no need to down sports drinks pre- or post-workout.  Even though, yes, many of us are outdoors and yes, Arkansas is hot in the summer!  And if that doesn’t convince you, sports drinks contain about 80calories per 8 oz., and 21g of sugar.


Personally I am all about the water.  Just good old fashioned water, and lots of it -- maybe with some lemon, or some lime.  I am not knocking Gatorade or any other sports drinks. I actually think they offer a great product and I use them anytime I am really pushing myself to the point of exhaustion…a 14 mile hike in Arizona, a long run (over 18 miles), 6+ hours of yard work.  Just not before my daily workout session.

I know some of you won’t be convinced.  So, what is a good, healthy, low-calorie, low-sugar alternative to sports drinks (besides water)? 

Coconut Water: Pure coconut water is a great, healthy alternative to a sports drink.  “Mother Nature’s sports drink” It contains more potassium than a banana (some researchers say 4 bananas!).  Available at most grocery stores – just make sure you aren’t confusing the water with the milk.  (43 calories, 5.92g sugar per 8 oz)

Watermelon Juice:  A new study shows that watermelon juice helps minimize post-workout soreness.  It contains an aminion acid (L-citrulline) that boosts blood flow.  Just toss some fresh watermelon into a blender and there you have it -- watermelon juice! (46 calories, 9.42g sugar per 1 cup blended)

Chocolate Milk:  Possibly my favorite and it’s been around as long as I can remember.  Ideal 4:1 ration of carbs to protein make this a great recovery drink for the muscles. But watch the calories here – an 8 oz serving of 1% chocolate milk packs in  the calorie at a whopping 160 calories and 25g of sugar.


Beer:  I swear I am not making this up.  The barely-based beverage helps get the carbs your body is missing back into your body.  But to really reap a benefit here we are talking post-half-marathon, not post-1 hour workout.

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