When preparing myself for a scenic day hike through the mountains back home, I would always throw in a bottle or two of Powerade. It was like a reflex, and I never seemed to think twice about it. Why would I? Sports drinks reboot our bodies with the necessary nutrients that our body is burning during exercise, and I’d always feel so hardcore while chugging down my Powerade after the first leg of one of nature’s thigh burning stairmasters. But, are these types of drinks entirely necessary?
When we’re performing any kind of high intensity activity over a long period of time, our bodies begin to heat up and will then try to cool down, which leads to that glorious feeling of sweat dripping down your face or the moist cling of your workout top to your back. We all know it too well. When we sweat, we lose large amounts of water, sodium and potassium. The latter are forms of electrolytes, which play a vital role in helping the body maintain a normal balance of fluids, preventing our bodies from dehydrating. As we burn off our previous night’s spaghetti bolognese and the day-of’s breakfast, we begin to look for a new source of hydration and energy to keep our muscles moving. When we fail to replenish our bodies, our performance weakens, leading to fatigue and dehydration which can result in muscle strain and injury. Enter Sports Drinks.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade have been marketed primarily towards athletes and sports enthusiasts who are on crazy training regimens, promising to enhance their performance by providing energy to muscles in a colourful refreshing beverage loaded with electrolytes and sugars. For the rest of us: an artificially flavored and colored drink with a sweetness that quenches your thirst so much that you are amazed that something this delicious can be beneficial to your body. This has led us to believe that regardless of the intensity of our physical exercise, we need these types of drinks. But this notion can backfire – your short gym sessions or your daily run, as hardcore as they may seem, it’s doubtful that your body will become depleted of enough energy to sustain you through your exercise routine.
Instead of drinking the equivalent of what you spent all your time and energy burning, keep things simple – stick to water! Though it may not give you the same type of satisfaction as a flavored drink, it provides you with the underlying need for hydration, which, for most of us is enough. For those of you who still require electrolytes, unflavored coconut water (as opposed to flavored, whose sugar content ends up being pretty close to that of sports drinks) is an excellent alternative.
So, unless you’re training for the next Ironman or competed in Sunday’s Superbowl, don’t waste your money and energy on the sports drink hype and keep it au natural with water. Your body will thank you!