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.
According Dr. Gerald Olarsch, N.D., if there are too few trace-minerals in your hydration drink, the solution will be unable to form the proper electrolyte balance to enter the cells and maximize rehydration during exercise.
Sports drinks commonly contain sodium and potassium, but they rarely offer the balance of electrolytes critical to proper bodily function during intensive periods of exercise. When a deficiency in the intake of trace minerals occurs, results consistently show an impairment of specific bodily functions. For example, a loss of certain minerals can cause dizzy spells or lightheadedness, especially during exertion in hot weather.
The proper complement of minerals, when taken daily, may help to provide the following benefits:
Promotes faster recovery from injury stress or strenuous exercise.
Heightens concentration and alertness and supports neurotransmitter function in the brain.
Increases oxygen uptake at the cellular level.
Dramatically boosts energy levels.
Strengthens the immune system.
Rapidly helps kill infectious bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, and parasites without harming beneficial microorganism.
Enhances uptake of vitamins, macro minerals, proteins and other essential nutrients from natural food sources or dietary supplements.
Helps to reestablish healthy pH levels.
Trace minerals occur in the body in tiny amounts, but they are a key constituent in maintaining homeostasis in the body, it works to keep your body in balance.
Sports drinks have tried to address the need for electrolyte replacement and have included carbohydrates for energy, but do you know what they are really putting into those drinks? Are they helping or hurting your athletic performance?
You have to be a dedicated label reader to know which ingredients in a food or drink product are beneficial to your body and which are harmful. Many ingredients in sports drinks come with a warning of health hazards if taken in quantity. Sugars and artificial sweeteners may be added as carbohydrates and include glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, and dextrose.
Sugars in high quantities are not recommended for dieters or diabetics and may not be beneficial in electrolyte drinks because the added sugar need to be broken down by the digestive system thus delaying electrolyte absorption. GI-distress is a common occurrence among athletes who rely on sugar-heavy sports and energy formulas for hydration.
More information about electrolytes and sports drinks is available in this free publication titled "Runners Guide To Electrolytes: Electrolyte and Carbohydrate Replacement" by Nina Anderson, SPN. Download a free copy here.