Sports drinks are beneficial in the right circumstances, depending on how you use them and your level of activity.
It’s important to differentiate a sports drink from energy drinks like Red Bull, which is not a sports drink. I recommend people not use products like Red Bull for sporting activities, because it contains stimulants like caffeine and taurine, which don’t give your muscles energy. Examples of sports drinks are water, Gatorade, Powerade and other drinks that contain electrolytes.
When to Use a Sports Drink
Athletes should consume sports drinks during prolonged aerobic activity, where they sweat a lot and potentially lose a lot of water and electrolytes. Drinking Gatorade can be very beneficial in that circumstance. Gatorade was developed by the University of Florida Gators as an aid to athletic competition to help football players rehydrate in high humidity environments.
The people who need sports drinks are those doing prolonged exercise. If you’re going to run a marathon, sports drinks might benefit you because in addition to the electrolytes, they also provide calories. Adding those extra calories can help you while running a marathon. Even if you are doing a long run of 15 miles or more, your body can benefit from a sports drink.
When Not to Use Sports Drinks
Most of us do not exercise for prolonged periods. We typically exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, and for that you don’t need a sports drink. Water is just fine. If you’re weightlifting, you probably don’t need a sports drink. Again, water will be just fine if you get thirsty.
If you are drinking Gatorade or Powerade at home instead of soda, that’s not a good idea because these sports drinks contain too many calories and too much salt. If you are inactive, they provide no benefit. They may be a little better than drinking soda, but the better drink in these circumstances is water.
We run into trouble when people start using sports drinks as a social drink while not engaged in a sports-related activity, because they’re just getting extra calories they don’t need. These drinks can contribute to childhood obesity and tooth decay.
When properly used in the right context, sports drinks are a wonderful thing and provide great benefit to a lot of athletes. Want to learn more about how to train as an athlete? Please send us a message at Schuster Family Medicine & Osteopathic Manual Medicine or give us a call at (317) 434-1750.