Many sports drinks, like Gatorade, claim to offer athletes hydration superior to water. But, are these claims true, or are sports drinks a waste of your money?
As it turns out, there are differing opinions on the subject. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about sports drinks, staying hydrated, and making the best choices for your own active lifestyle.
According to Harvard Health Publications, thirst should guide your liquid consumption, and water should be your beverage of choice. According to Dr. Francis Wang, team physician for Harvard athletics, “For most players, thirst is a good guide for hydration.”
Dr. Wang goes on to explain that athletes who have experienced muscle cramping might need to drink extra water and more electrolytes. But, his study of the topic suggests water will do the trick for most people.
On the other side of the issue we have nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, M.S., CDN, FACSM. Skolnik works with the New York Giants and New York Knicks, and she explains, "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.” Skolnik also points out sports drinks taste good, which can encourage you to drink more.
There is one caveat to consider — children absolutely don’t need to be chugging sports drinks, according to Dr. Claire McCarthy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. However, adults should also be aware of their drink’s calorie count. Many sports drinks contain 100 or more calories and lots of sugar. For some people, that calorie count is insignificant. For others, it isn’t.
The sports drinks vs. water debate doesn’t have a clear winner. If you choose to never touch a bottle of Gatorade or Powerade, it’s unlikely your athletic performance will suffer if you’re drinking enough water.
Similarly, if sports drinks don’t have a negative impact on your daily calorie goals and leave you feeling hydrated and ready to work, keep on drinking them! And, if you aren’t sold on plain water or sports drinks, try giving your water a taste upgrade with fruit, melon, or mint.