NUTRITION

Are Sports Drinks Necessary?

Find out when you should stick to water or switch to a sports drink.

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By Linzy Ziegelbaum

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When do you need sports drinks, or when is water enough? People often associate sports drinks with exercise. Some people drink sports drinks because they think sports drinks will help them perform better, some drink them for the taste, and some drink them because they think they are necessary for hydration. Let’s look at scenarios where sports drinks could be beneficial.

When exercising at a high intensity for more than 60 minutes, sports drinks are often indicated. This is because after about an hour of high intensity exercise your body burns energy stores and carbohydrate stores and loses electrolytes through sweat.

Calories, carbohydrates and electrolytes then need to be replenished, and many sports drinks are a source of both calories, carbohydrates and electrolytes. When exercising for less than an hour, water should be enough to keep you hydrated, and drinking sports drinks will not lead to better performance.

Drinking sports drinks when they are not indicated will contribute added calories and sugar to someone’s daily diet. For example, 16 oz of one popular sports drink contains 127 calories and 26 grams of sugar. This is the equivalent of 6.5 teaspoons of sugar in two cups of a sports drink. Those who are exercising for more than an hour need this sugar to fuel them, but those who sports drinks are not indicated for are consuming unneeded calories and sugar. Many popular sports drinks also contain artificial dyes and long lists of ingredients. This is of concern because some studies have linked food dyes to increased hyperactivity in children, and children often consume sports drinks.

As with any food or beverage, always check the nutrition facts label and read both the ingredients and nutrition facts label. If you are not sure if you would benefit from a sports drink, consult with a registered dietitian for help.

Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.

Main Photo Credit: Minerva Studio/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Chuck Wagner/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Bodnar Taras/shutterstock.com