Have you ever read the label of sports drinks or vitamin drinks you consume during or after your long runs or rides? It may surprise you what's inside these so-called refreshing, health drinks marketed to athletes.
If you read the label on Gatorade, after filtered water the second largest ingredient is sucrose (artificial sweetener), the third is dextrose, followed by fructose (sweetener), citric acid and then natural and artificial flavoring including colored dyes.
In fact, most popular drinks on the market including vitamin water (32g of sugar), gatorade (25g of sugar), Red Bull (52g of sugar), and soda (varies) have nearly all the daily sugar recommended by the FDA in a single serving.
For athletes, sugar is useful after exercise to replenish glycogen stores. Athletes have added sugar as a carbohydrate to boost energy levels. But excessive sugar consumption can have detrimental side affects, including weight gain, impaired immune system function, and increased risk of diabetes.
According to sports nutritionist and author of various sports nutrition publications, Nina Anderson, "artificial colors and flavors from coal tar derivatives such as Red #40, a possible carcinogen, and Yellow #6, which causes sensitivity to viruses are commonly used in sports drinks."
Even artificial sweeteners like aspartame found in diet drinks are bad for you. Aspartame comes with a list of potential side effects with the most profound being the possible detrimental effect on the neurotransmitters in the brain. Headaches are a common side effect of aspartame (sometimes camouflaged as phenylalanine on the label). Other symptoms may be joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, cramps, vertigo and dizziness.
Not only do so-called healthy vitamin-infused water and sports drinks contain sugars and artificial additives that most health conscious individuals and athletes should be aware of, but these large corporations have created an enormous market of pricey drinks directed toward athletes, that may not be beneficial at all if consumed in large quantities.
You can hear more on electrolytes and some of the ingredients in some of today's sports drinks in an interview with Nina Anderson, SPN, below.