On the way in to the office this morning I dropped off my daughter at middle school and my son at elementary school. Over the course of the drive I saw children, adolescents, teens, parents, cyclists, and workers all drinking what I call the ‘new soda’ – Gatorade.
Dr. Lovick wrote an awesome article on sodas a few issues back. If you missed it, please check it out here
on the blog. I could not agree more with the good advice she gave and I would encourage you all to also be mindful of Gatorade and other electrolyte drinks.
All the advertisements showing athletes using them have given us the impression that they are healthy and help us perform in some way. Like most claims, there is a kernel of truth. For athletes who are really pushing it, for some length of time, these drinks can help. Specifically this would apply to those who are exerting themselves too hard to carry on a conversation for greater than 90 minutes.
When you’re in this category, liquid carbohydrates can make up for the loss of sugar stored in your muscles called glycogen. Quickly absorbed sugars are thought to get into the blood stream faster than food which in theory would energize us more quickly.
However the literature in sports medicine does not show a clear advantage for sports drinks over food even during extreme activity. Personally I do use sports drinks during races or 4 hour rides just for convenience. In these situations I use a blend made by Hammer Nutrition called Extreme Endurance. It contains slower burning carbohydrates, small amounts of protein, key nutrients and no sugar.
For training rides under 90 minutes I just do water and Endurolyte brand electrolyte caps on hot days. For over 90 minutes I carry food. It is bulkier and clumsier but I prefer how I feel during and after the ride. Figs work great as do the small flat sandwich rounds.
Yet not one of the 10 or so users of Gatorade I saw this morning fit in that category. They were all just getting a lot of empty sugar calories which will set them on a blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day. Symptoms of this can include anxiety, poor short term memory, mood swings, headaches and sugar cravings. The unexpected thing is that these symptoms can come on much later in the day and can even effect quality of sleep that night.
Yes, Gatorade does have electrolytes and they are useful to all of us whether we’re training hard or not. Specifically a 16 ounce serving has 220 mg sodium and 60 mg of potassium and 28 grams of sugar. Most of us already get too much sodium everyday. Extra sodium makes us lose more magnesium and potassium. 1/2 of a banana will give you 220 mg of potassium and only 6-8 grams of sugar. If you really want something sweet to drink, have a small serving of coconut water (6 ounces) which will give you 300 mg of potassium for only 7 grams of sugar.
Most of us are better off focusing our liquid intake on water, if you want to try a super-healthy drink, look at the 5 a day video
on our YouTube channel.