Wednesday Wonders: Sports Drinks

October 14, 2009

Q: I work out on a regular basis and I’m getting used to drinking sports drinks such as Gatorade and similar vitamin waters during and after workouts, and lately even when I don’t work out. What do you think about these kinds of drinks ? — Delphine

A: Hi Delphine,

Good for you that you exercise regularly — it is so important for weight maintenance and overall health. To answer your question, I am not a fan of sports drinks on a daily basis and even after regular 60 minute workouts.

Most sports drinks, like Gatorade, contain a lot of sugar and few nutrients. While one serving may not seem like too many calories, generally around 50 calories per 8 ounces, a whole 32 ounce bottle contains 200 calories and over 50 grams of sugar — more than double the amount of sugar the American Heart Association recommends per day. Considering that one of the first three ingredients of drinks like Gatorade is high fructose corn syrup, which is a form of sugar, it is clear that the sugar is not coming from a natural source.

Unless you are running a marathon or doing an ironman (or woman!), the electrolytes lost during your regular exercise  breaks can easily be replenished through eating a healthy snack when you are finished at the gym and maintaining a healthy diet overall.

Likewise, you don’t need vitamin waters that are filled with calories and sugar when plain tap or bottled water is a calorie- and sugar-free drink that will quench your thirst. I always advocate for food first in order to get the nutrients you need for the day, and drinking your vitamins is not necessary if you have a well-balanced diet. If plain water isn’t cutting it for you, add a slice of lemon, lime, orange, or cucumber to add some flavor without the calories and sugar.

Do you have nutrition questions? Don’t be shy! Send them my way at jessica@nutritioulicious.com!

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  1. I just ran a half marathon and got significantly dehydrated because I didn’t drink nearly enough during the race. How much water vs. sports drinks (I would choose coconut water because it’s 100% natural) would you recommend to drink during a race like that? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Elina, I’m sorry to hear you were dehydrated during the race. I hope you were ok. I am not a specialist in sports nutrition, but the recommendations for endurance events are as follows:

      2 hours pre-event: drink 2 cups (16 oz) of water
      Immediately before event: drink 6-8 oz of water or a sports drink
      During event: drink 1 cup (8 oz) of water every 10-15 minutes or if the event is longer than 60 minutes, drink 16-32 ounces (2-4 cups) of a sports drink
      Post event: drink 2 cups (16 oz) of water for every pound lost during the event

      Since natural coconut water doesn’t contain any added sugar and has fewer calories than other sports drinks, you can refuel with it without worrying too much about overdoing it. That being said, it is best to fuel up with plain water prior to the event and use the sports drink/coconut water during and after the event.

      For personal recommendations I would suggest checking with a sports dietitian.

  2. I also tell my clients that refueling after a vigorous workout with chocolate milk, instead of some monster-sized sports drink, is a healthier alternative to pure sugar drinks in that it also has protein, carbs, and calcium, in addition to water 🙂

  3. Hey Jessica, one of my Facebook friends posted this, great site!
    I am a father and a former Pro Soccer player who understands how nutrition plays such a role in the body’s performance and overall health, and I want to convey that to families everywhere.

    Beverage choices have really been the critical issue, especially with youth. I agree that Gatorade is not always a good option to replenish, unfortunately most of these electrolyte drinks have high or the wrong sugars. I guess education on the right choices is all we can do. There are better options, but most people don’t know about them. I am currently partnered in development of a product that is Coconut water based….how funny is that! 🙂

    All the best and keep up the good work! We should chat sometime, in this new venture I am starting we are partnered with several Doctors and Pro/Olympic athletes and are always looking for the right people to partner with.