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Sports Drinks Vs Water – The Ugly Truth
Lucozade, Powerade, Gatorade…
In the 21st century, energy drink ads are everywhere. You can no longer turn on the television or open a magazine without seeing an ad for these glorified potions. These drinks seem to be taking the fitness world by storm, and you only have to stop by your local gym to see how popular they are.
So what exactly are these so-called “sports drinks” and what do they claim to do?
A sports drink is a drink designed to boost energy levels, replace electrolytes and keep you hydrated. So let’s see how they claim to do this:
Increase energy levels
Sports drinks are full of sugar – a 500ml bottle of Lucozade energy contains 21 teaspoons of sugar! To put this into perspective, a can of Coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. When these sports drinks are consumed, our body converts all the sugar into glucose which is released into our bloodstream. This glucose provides energy to our body, which is what gives us that “alert” feeling.
The problem is that glucose is a very short-lived energy source and has harmful effects on the body. When we drink sports drinks, our bodies have to produce large amounts of insulin to help our cells absorb glucose from our bloodstream. Excess glucose is then converted to fat in the liver and deposited in our cells. Insulin also inhibits the breakdown of fat within our bodies. Both of these factors encourage fat storage and are counterproductive when considering why people are in the gym!
The counter argument to this is that sports drinks give you the energy you need to perform an intense workout, which offers benefits that far outweigh the negative impacts of the sports drink. Well, I say it’s a terrible argument, and here’s why…
The average person who visits the gym exercises at a moderate intensity for about 30 minutes. Let’s imagine that the chosen exercise is running, in this case they will burn about 250-400 calories in the session. Now imagine they consume a 500ml bottle of Lucozade Sport, which contains 140 calories. That’s about half of the total calories you burn at the gym, just for consuming an energy drink. So for every 10 minutes they run, they only burn 5 minutes of calories…
What makes it worse is the sugar in the sports drink, which is bad for two reasons.
1. As explained above, the consumption of sugar causes an increase in insulin levels, which favors the accumulation of fat within our body.
2. When glucose is available in our bloodstream, our cells will use it as a primary source of energy. As a result, the energy we need to exercise will come from the glucose in our blood. If we didn’t drink the sports drink, our cells wouldn’t have access to this glucose, which means they would have to get energy to break down our fat.
As you can see, sports drinks are a counterproductive method for someone who wants to lose fat. However, supporters of sports drinks will still argue that they give you the energy you need to exercise. However, again, this is a flawed argument…
The average gym goer has access to more than enough energy to perform 30 minutes of exercise. They likely have glucose in their bloodstream from that day’s meals, and if they run out of glucose, they can break down fat stores to fuel their bodies. The only time sports drinks are beneficial is for ultra-endurance athletes, those who exercise intensely for hours on end. But even then, there are much better sources of energy – what’s wrong with a good old banana? Not only is this much better for your body than sports drinks, but it breaks down much more slowly, so it provides sustained energy over a long period of time, as opposed to a short spike that glucose provides. In short, sports drinks are just as bad for us as candy, and there are far better ways to provide our bodies with the energy they need to exercise.
Electrolytes are minerals found in the blood and cells, and they help regulate body fluids. The best known are sodium and chloride.
During exercise – the body’s electrolyte balance can begin to change – and as the body loses electrolytes through sweat, the imbalance can cause symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue and nausea. Sports drinks take advantage of this by promising that they can replace our body’s electrolytes and prevent these symptoms. Our bodies lose electrolytes relatively slowly, so unless you’re exercising for more than an hour, your body will be able to address its electrolyte imbalance without the need for sports drinks.
The ultimate promise of “sports drinks” is that they keep you hydrated. Staying hydrated is an important part of any exercise routine, as the body loses water much faster than electrolytes. Lack of water can lead to dehydration which leads to fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, dizziness and poor concentration.
However, do you want to know the best way to keep your body hydrated? WATER
There is no better way to hydrate your body than to drink water, and lots of it. Plus, it’s free, contains no calories, and has tons of benefits for your body.
The other problem that sports drinks will have is that they encourage you to drink before you are thirsty. They claim the reason for this is that once you’re thirsty, it’s too late, and dehydration has already occurred. This is absolute nonsense, and there is simply no scientific research to support this claim. Our bodies are extremely complex machines that have evolved over thousands of years. Considering that water is the most important element for our survival, I am sure that our body has developed the ability to warn us when we need to drink (before we become dehydrated). And how does he do it? It’s called being thirsty!
The fact is, we don’t need to drink water until we feel thirsty, as this is our body’s way of letting us know that we need to drink. The danger of drinking before you’re thirsty is that it can lead to overhydration, which is very dangerous. People very rarely die from dehydration, but it is very common for people to die from overhydration.
So there you have it..
Sports drinks are completely unnecessary for the average gym goer:
– They contain a large amount of sugar.
– They are rich in calories
– They favor the accumulation of fat in your body.
– They are a short-term source of energy.
– They are useless in terms of electrolyte replacement unless you are exercising for 1 hour+
– They are an expensive form of hydration: water is free and more effective.
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