Gatorade – Good or Evil?
Sports drinks have always been a huge hit with athletes and have been proven to be effective in the battle against dehydration. According to the American Council on Exercise, “sports drinks are now recommended to exercising individuals, especially when their workouts lasts longer than 45 minutes”.
But here’s the part that no one really thinks about — For the recreational exerciser (the ones who train for only 20-30 minutes), water does a fine job of replacing the lost fluids. You don’t need the calories, or replacement of minerals that sports drinks offer unless you’re doing the longer, high-intensity endurance events like marathon running, long distance bicycle events, or cross-county skiing.
Studies have shown that after “long” workouts, sports drinks rehydrate you faster than water. And here’s why: when guzzling water, the thirst mechanism tends to shut down quickly, causing some people to stop drinking before they are actually rehydrated. Sports drinks, on the other hand, prolong your thirst, keeping you drinking until full hydration is achieved.
There are many sports drinks on the market today so start paying attention to the percentage of carbohydrates in each drink. A good choice is one that contains 6-8% carbs and lists glucose as its main source of carbohydrate. Glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy. Your muscles gain an added source of fuel by consuming carbohydrates during exercise, such as the sugar in sports drinks. This will help maintain a normal blood sugar level, aiding in stamina, keeping you focused, and thinking clearly.
Avoid drinks that contain fructose as the ONLY source of carbohydrates. Fructose must be converted into glucose before it can enter the bloodstream, thus causing a delay in absorption.
But what about electrolytes?
All sports drink manufacturers taut their electrolytes. But what the heck are they? According to Covert Bailey, author of the best selling book Smart Exercise, “Electrolytes are simply minerals. When minerals dissolve in the bloodstream, they form salts that take on an electrical charge. Without electrolytes nerve impulses can not be conducted, and the brain isn’t able to send messages directing body movement and function.”
Electrolytes are also responsible for maintaining fluid levels in the body by regulating the water balance inside and outside cells. The main electrolytes that you’ll find on a sports drink label are sodium, potassium and chloride – all of which are in great demand inside our bodies following long bouts of strenuous exercise. Other minerals you might come across are calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. When you sweat a lot, it’s important to replenish these electrolytes too.
However, consuming a sports drink (containing glucose and other sugars) before exercise can present a problem.
According to Covert Bailey, sugar causes blood insulin to rise, which inhibits the release of fatty acids from the fat cells. For the first thirty minutes of exercise, your fat cells will not release the body’s primary fuel. Without the fatty acids, your muscles are forced to use stored glycogen, and then the sugar in the blood, thus burning up the sugar supply even quicker than normal.
So, consume your sports drinks during, and after exercise when the fatty acids have already entered the bloodstream.
Water or Gatorade?
Whether or not you choose to partake in the sports drink craze or not, continuous fluid replenishment is essential for avoiding dehydration. If your workout is under 30 minutes, stick with water and skip those extra calories. But, if you’re performing a strenuous workout that will cause you to sweat a lot, then choosing a good sports drink is fine.
Just be sensible and always stick to the following guidelines: drink 8-9, 8 oz glasses of water every day. Consume 8-16 oz at least an hour before you exercise and if possible, consume 8 oz of water 20 minutes prior to exercise. And finally, consume 4-8 oz of water every 10 to 15 minutes during the workout.