Do You Really Need a Sports Drink; Then Make Your Own!
As a coach for my girls' soccer team, I am always shocked to see kids come to the field with a bright red Gatorade or fluorescent blue Powerade bottle, rather than a simple, delicious bottle of water. This morning at the gym, I thought the same thing. Why do some people think that after spending 20 minutes on the elliptical machine think that they need a sports drink? Is it all marketing? Misinformation? My goal with this article is to shed some light on those sports drinks and help find some better alternatives.
I love bright colors. I am even sitting in my office now looking at my orange wall and smiling. But, I have always, even at a young age, been skeptical of consuming anything that is a wildly unnatural color. But now, there is so much scientific data out there linking many of the food colorings most commonly used (such as lake blue, red 40, yellow 6, there are too many to list here) with cancer, ADHD and allergies- it makes me wonder why so many people still drawn to them? Yes, maybe our kids think it is more fun to drink liquids if they are neon, or maybe they are following examples of professional athletes, or their parents that grab a sports drink after a 5K run because they think that they "need" them. But in reality, sports drinks aren't good for you, especially the fun neon kind. To read more about food coloring and their safety follow this link- food dyes.
So lets start with what sports drinks actually are; they are beverages that are intended to replace fluids, electrolytes and energy in athletes after exercising/training. The first marketed sports drink was created by Dr. Robert Cade and team at the University of Florida in 1965 in order to help alleviate dehydration and muscle cramps encountered by their football players after hours of playing in the heat and humidity. They named their drink after the school mascot, and that is how Gatorade was born. The sports drink market exploded in the 1990s, and is now a $4 billion business, because of professional sports endorsements as well as the "fun" color additives.
The efficacy, however, of sports drinks has never been proven- especially since they have evolved from Dr. Cade's initial, more natural, formulation. In fact, most doctors say that real depletion of electrolytes due to sweat doesn't even occur unless you have exercised heavily for 90 minutes. In fact, evidence shows that large intakes of sodium and sugar (which are the 2 main ingredients in these beverages after water) while exercising, can in fact cause cramping and gastrointestinal discomfort.
So do you need a sports drink after a walk around the neighborhood? Should you send your daughter to soccer practice with a Gatorade- the answer is a resounding no! The amount of calories and added sugar found in these drinks is totally unnecessary- anywhere form 21-56 grams! Additionally, the sodium and potassium that are found in natural (plant-based) products are much easier for your body to absorb. The best thing that you can do after exercising is drink a big glass of water and eat a banana or a cup of unsweetened applesauce. Or if you want a miracle beverage- try coconut water, which contains more potassium than a banana, without all of the artificial colors. Try an bottle of cold water with a slice of lemon or a splash of pomegranate juice.
If after all of this, you are still married to the idea of sports drinks, or need a refreshing reprieve from water, why not make your own- and they won't have any weird artificially flavors!
This DIY sports drink is delicious, tangy, and loaded with the good stuff that your body actually needs. Mix up and make a large batch and store it in your fridge for up to a week. Enjoy.
- 1 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of both- great source of vitamin C and antioxidants,
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger (reduces inflammation and settles the stomach, also gives the drink a bite)
- Pinch of sea salt
- ½ tablespoon of agave or honey
- 3 cups coconut water