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Things to know about Sports Drinks and Hydration

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by Mila McManus, MD

Our medical staff strongly urges adults and children to avoid sports drinks. As indicated below, most individuals can adequately hydrate with filtered, clean water! 

  • Most children and adults who exercise regularly do not need a special form of hydration beyond water unless exercising intensely for more than 60-90 minutes.
  • Popular sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, contain a number of concerning ingredients including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, caramel coloring, artificial flavors, and acids.
  • Some research suggests that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages results in a significant increase in body mass index.
  • The sugar in sports drinks causes an immediate blood sugar elevation and destabilization followed by a dump in energy, especially if the exercise is not strenuous enough to utilize the carbohydrates rapidly. Thus, they are draining rather than energizing.
  • Artificial sweeteners have been shown to disturb the gut microbiome, affecting immunity, digestion, satiety cues, and weight.
  • Certain studies associate artificial colors such as Blue 1 and Red 40 with behavior problems in those with ADHD.
  • The acid levels in the sports drinks have been shown to wear down tooth enamel, while the sugar contributes to cavity formation.
  • Acesulfame Potassium, a common artificial sweetener in sports drinks, has been shown to cause cancer and affect the thyroid in lab animals.
  • Sucralose, a.k.a. Splenda, is also linked to cancer, and is made using chlorine. If you want to ‘nerd out’, here’s the formula of sucralose: 1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxyfructose and 4-chloro-4-deoxygalactose (Uh, No thanks!)
  • Two of the four caramel colorings used in foods are formed using ammonia, and caramel coloring has been proven to cause leukemia, as well as lung, liver, and thyroid cancer in laboratory animals.
  • High fructose corn syrup consumption is linked to joint and gut inflammation, and may be associated with increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis in women.

Our electrolyte needs can be met by Pink Himalayan Salt, Redmond’s Sea Salt used on food and in water, as well as by eating salted nuts and seeds. A wide variety of vegetables and fruits in the diet are also great sources of potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, phosphate, and calcium, the primary electrolytes the body needs. Athletes who will participate in strenuous exercise for 60 minutes or more should hydrate well on a daily basis, prior to and on the day of exercise. Moreover, eat salty nuts and seeds, and consume plenty of protein.  Foods such as berries, celery, watermelon, kiwi, and cucumber, as well as salty nuts and chicken, and water will suffice well to sustain energy and focus during exercise.  Other possible alternatives to common sports drinks are NUUN Hydration Effervescent Electrolyte tablets, LMNT Elemental Labs -Recharge, Hi-Lyte™, or Lyteline™ electrolyte products.

Resources:

https://www.verywellfit.com/is-gatorade-good-or-bad-for-you-4177592

Gatorade.com

Powerade.com

https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#acesulfamek

https://cspinet.org/new/201102161.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4817078/

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