Are Sports Drinks Really Good for You?

Are Sports Drinks Really Good for You?

Intensive athletic activity can cause dehydration due to perspiration. Sixty percent of the adult male body is composed of water, as compared to 55 percent for women. Electrolyte balance is important to maintain energy and health. Sports drinks are advertised to provide electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. But, people do not usually need to replenish electrolytes unless exercising rigorously for more than one consecutive hour.

Dental Effects of Sports and Energy Drinks

Tooth erosion has been linked to the use of sports and energy drinks. A report in General Dentistry in 2012 concluded that tooth enamel was worn away due to the acidity in sports and energy drinks in as little as five consecutive days of moderate consumption.  After testing 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks, the researchers concluded that energy drinks had an even more negative impact than sports drinks—and that the tooth damage was irreversible.

To combat the negative oral impact of the acidity, it is advised to wait at least one hour to brush teeth following consuming a sports or energy drink (in order to allow saliva to re-balance the pH of the mouth).

Sugar in Sports Drinks

In contrast to drinking water, sports drinks typically contain as much sugar as most carbonated soft drinks. A thirty-two ounce bottle of a popular brand contains 76 grams of sugar (contributing 280 calories) plus added carbohydrates. For people who are engaged in a fitness program to lose weight, drinking products with sugar and carbohydrates assures a high caloric intake, so it is not recommended.

Anybody who is diagnosed as diabetic (or pre-diabetic) should avoid most sports drinks. The usual rule of thumb is that an adult needs 1.5 to 4 cups of liquid per hour of exercise; thus, adequate hydration is something that athletes need to take seriously. The problem is that obesity is at epidemic levels in the U.S.—and sports drinks are not providing a solution to this crisis.

Difference Between Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks

Among adolescents, there is little differentiation perceived between sports drinks and energy drinks—which is resulting in an over-consumption by teenagers of energy drinks containing a high level of caffeine and stimulant additives (according to an article in 2011 in Pediatrics). In turn, a high consumption of caffeine and stimulants in energy drinks has been linked to addiction (as well as sleep disorders, anxiety, and heart palpitations).

Guarana and ginseng are two stimulants (besides caffeine) that are commonly added to energy drinks, per an online article on CNN Health.

Use of Sports Drinks in Competitive Athletic Events

Engaging in intensive athletic competition such as running a marathon can physiologically deplete sodium due to excessive sweating. The result can be muscle cramps. Use of sports drinks may reduce the likelihood of developing these muscle cramps. However, an article in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in 2007 suggested that over-consumption of water may be just as likely as intensive exercise in causing the depletion of sodium. Since an abnormally low sodium level (or hyponatremia) can be life-threatening, ingesting a salty snack following intensive athletic competition is often recommended.