For the last few years, health experts have drilled into us that gym goers need to keep their hydration up at all costs. Drink before and after exercising, or run serious risks. What's more, water is supposedly insufficient to keep our bodies hydrated. We are told that flavored, mineral-rich and carbohydrate-containing sports drinks are just what we need. Don't forget the juicy electrolytes they contain! All of these are essential for sports performance and health. However, according to sports scientists, we don't really need sports drinks unless we're planning to partake in a triathlon event. There is little scientific evidence that average exercise levels require us to consume sports drinks. More than one expert thinks sports drinks are merely supplying us with an unnecessary dollop of calories in the form of refined sugar. Here’s why you should consider ditching sports drinks:
1. Potentially Misleading Advertising
The UK Advertising Standards Agency banned a promotional campaign by Lucozade Sport last year, in which the company claimed their sports drink hydrated exercisers "better than water." According to the Australian authors of a 2014 paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, "there is no strong scientific evidence" that sports drinks are fitness and health-enhancing; the authors also voiced their concerns that sports drinks producers were still marketing their products in this misleading way.
2. Potentially Harmful to Teeth
Sports drinks are full of sugar and highly acidic at the same time, a lethal combination for teeth. Several studies have proven this combination will gradually erode enamel, which is the glossy outer layer of our teeth. Damage to tooth enamel cannot be reversed and without it, our teeth become painfully over-sensitive and are more likely to develop cavities and decay. If you like drinking sports drinks, minimize contact with your teeth and drink only through a straw.
3. Negate Weight Loss Efforts
According to Linia Patel, a sports dietician working for the British Dietetic Association, too many people are convinced that the more sugar-rich sports drinks they drink, the fitter they'll be. Ms Patel points out that sports drinks contain large amounts of refined sugar and, at ca. 140 calories a bottle, they'll potentially wipe out any weight loss achieved through exercising. Drink too many sports drinks and weight gain, not loss, is the result.
4. Bad for Your Balance
Your bank balance that is! Sports drinks are more expensive than the average fizzy drink and if the average person exercises intensively for no more than an hour, it's far more beneficial to drink mineral water or plant water than waste money on sports drinks.
5. Avoid Fluid Intoxication
Sports scientists have discovered that it is just as harmful to drink too much during exercise as it is to consume too little. Hyponatraemia, or fluid intoxication, is actually more in evidence at major endurance events like the London Marathon than dehydration. This condition is caused when electrolytes (or body salts) and sodium levels become dangerously diluted. Fluid intoxication can result in respiratory problems, fatigue and dizziness.
6. Avoid Artificial Colors, Sweeteners and Flavors
Sports drinks contain artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors that make them look interesting and taste better, but do nothing for our health. They certainly don't replace the electrolytes our bodies do need after intense exercise.
7. High Salt Content
Many sports drinks contain exaggerated amounts of sodium, ostensibly to replace the body salts and sodium lost during high intensity work-outs. However, most people only exercise at moderate levels, which means their sodium intake is far too high than needed when they consume sports drinks.
8. Substitute for Healthy Alternatives
Substitute sports drinks for plant waters such as cactus or maple water, which offer a wide range of nutritional benefits, or try coconut water, a natural source of magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. It also contains B vitamins, electrolytes, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and amino acids. If you want something other than plain H2O and are going to spend your money on something, then at least make sure you spend it on something good.
Are you a fan of sports drinks? What do you think of the evidence that is saying they aren’t as good as we might think?