...or is it?
Sports drinks are more popular now than ever before.
A quick stop at the local gas station will present you with rows upon rows of rainbow-hued products -
This one claims to rehydrate your body, that one says it will boost your energy, or aid in post-workout recovery, but they all have one thing in common:
There is a ton of sugar in sports drinks.
Truth in Advertising?
Whether you're into endurance training, yoga, running, or any other form of fitness, chances are you've slammed your fair share of sports drinks.
Remember the iconic Gatorade commercials where athletes would drink (and then subsequently sweat) the brightly-colored beverages?
Well, we stripped away the gimmick and actually looked at what's inside that glossy, well-marketed packaging.
What we found isn't just contrary to what we know to be healthy - it's downright dangerous.
It's ironic when you stop to think about it.
Here you have a beverage touted as healthy and replenishing, and yet it is jam-packed with sugars.
So what's the big deal?
Well, in order to fully grasp the reasons for why you should avoid the sugar in sports drinks, it helps to have a working understanding of two main factors:
1. How sports drinks affect your body; and
2. How sugar affects your body.
Back in the early 1980s, Gatorade opened their Sports Science Institute.
There they continue to research athlete hydration and performance to this day.
They were the ones who really popularized the importance of electrolytes as they pertained to athletic peak performance.
So what's an electrolyte, anyhow?
Well, without going off into the world of atoms, an electrolyte is simply a mineral running through your body which carries a charge.
The reason they matter is that electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, as well as how your muscles function.
Sports drinks also are packed full of refined salt.
Otherwise known as sodium chloride, it's meant to replace the electrolytes lost through sweating.
However, this salt comes from salt mines deep within the earth (as opposed to sea salt, which comes from evaporated sea water).
Because it is so heavily processed, it's stripped of the various minerals and trace elements that your body needs to function properly.
Western Analysis, Inc. concludes that sea salt can have as many as 75 minerals and trace elements, in some cases, even more, depending on geographic location!
Refined salt is usually rife with additives, including potassium iodide which is added to offset iodine deficiency, and sugar (wait, what?) which is added to stabilize the iodine.
An electrolyte imbalance has all sorts of nasty consequences.
While the electrolytes touted on the label may be enticing, even they themselves may have sugar lurking within them.
The sugar in sports drinks is so damaging to these bodily processes that the electrolytes may as well be thrown out the window.
One of the most notorious causes of electrolyte dysfunction is elevated blood sugar, and here is the first clue that there is a serious issue with the levels of sugar in sports drinks.
The first three ingredients of the most popular sports drink on the market today are water, sucrose, and dextrose. Ingredients are always listed in order of concentration, so right away there's a glaring problem here.
Sucrose is your household table sugar, and dextrose (otherwise known as glucose) is also sugar.
However, dextrose raises the levels of blood sugar in the body, which in turn triggers the pancreas to release insulin in order to metabolize it, and insulin is what tells the body to store that excess sugar as fat.
Taking in sugar after exercising will only further the negative effects of insulin on the body, and it has consequences for the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as well.
The sugar in sports drinks is a particular sticking point for individuals who are trying to adopt a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle.
While there are sugar-free options out there, they are filled with artificial sweeteners, which can also cause blood sugar fluctuations and can even lead to sugar cravings.
An Overlooked Contender
The harmful and negative long-term effects of sugar in sports drinks are pretty disturbing. So what's a good alternative?
Pure water is the easiest and most effective way to stay hydrated, but if you are looking for something to replenish lost electrolytes and stabilize your blood sugar either pre or post-workout, coconut water is the best way to go.
Coconut water is from young green coconuts, and it is one of the most electrolyte-rich naturally-occurring substances in the world.
It boasts twice the amount of electrolytes as sports drinks, with less than half the sugars, and it is delicious!
An eight-ounce serving of coconut water has 46 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 250 mg of sodium, 600 mg of potassium, 60 mg of magnesium, 45 mg of phosphorus, and 2 grams of protein.
Coconut water also contains a multitude of highly beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.
It also stops the glycation process, which causes your body to age more rapidly.
What's not to love?
Ready to Ditch the Sugar in Sports Drinks?
It can be hard to tune out the constant bombardment of commercials, the displays at sports retailers or local gyms, or the ease of access to commercial sports drinks.
Unfortunately, the excess sugars they contain can easily compromise your workout, or even cause you to gain weight if you aren't drinking them the right way, in the right amount, at the right time.
They can also lead to electrolyte imbalance and blood sugar spikes, but happily, there are other options.
We are proud to bring you a variety of alternative beverages to help you maximize your results - whether you're in the gym or on the field, jogging, hiking, or just plain thirsty!
If you're interested in learning more about natural, healthy ways to stay hydrated no matter what your activity level, be sure to swing by and check out our blog as well.