What Is The Best Sports Drink For Athletes?

The sports drink market includes a flurry of bottled drinks, mixes, and electrolyte supplements. The marketing goals appear to be focused on rehydration and increased sports performance. While most companies producing the products seem to embrace the value of electrolytes, they may not have delivered the proper complement of ingredients for maximum electrolyte formation and absorption.

Are Sports Drinks Necessary?

While Gatorade was invented in 1965 by the medical team for the University of Florida Gators, it wasn't until 1991 when sports drinks really launched in popularity. 

Today, Gatorade has plenty of competition, but do you really need any of them to enhance your workout? Yes, if you're exercising longer than 60 minutes — or less than that but very intensely.  "Water provides no sodium, which helps the body hold onto water and helps fluid get to the right places in the body, like muscles and blood," says nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, M.S., CDN, FACSM, who advises both the New York Giants and the New York Knicks on healthy eating as well as drinking. 

Risks Associated With Sports Drinks

Many sports drinks on the market claim to be healthy for you but contain certain preservatives, artificial flavors and colored dyes, aspartame and sugar that add to the visual or taste appeal of the drink, but may not be user-friendly to the body.  

In addition to its usefulness after exercise to replenish glycogen stores, sugar (fructose, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin) is usually added as a carbohydrate to boost energy levels.  "While this may stimulate the body momentarily, minutes later the glycemic roller coaster sets in with associated compromise in body function. Muscle-testing (Kinesiology), used by chiropractors and natural medicine practitioners, reveals that sugar actually diffuses the body’s ability to maintain muscle strength; therefore, it does not seem wise to use it when periods of strength are required", says sports nutritionist, Nina Anderson (SPN) of Safe Goods Publishing.

Alternative To Sports Drinks

For any sports workout lasting more than 60 minutes, athletes are recommend to consume pure electrolyte drinks with the proper complement of minerals.  If you need a boost for short term energy or glycogen replacement, you may want to choose a drink containing less than 8 percent carbohydrates or take an ATP booster like rhodiola.  As a general rule, the higher the carbohydrate content, the slower the absorption rate of electrolytes and nutrients. 

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