Do Athletes Need Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks get a bad reputation these days for being high in sugar and “unhealthy” for athletes to be drinking. Some athletes will go as far as to avoid sports drinks altogether, even during intense exercise and athletic events/games. While it is great that these athletes are taking their nutrition seriously, they are actually doing more harm to their performance by trying to avoid sports drinks and hydrating with just water.

History of Sports Drinks

The original sports drink, Gatorade, was developed by nutrition and sports scientists to help the football players at the University of Florida perform better on the field and prevent the negative consequences of dehydration in the hot summer months. They developed the sports drink with 2 goals in mind:

Sports Drinks Provide Fluid & Electrolytes to Help the Body Stay Hydrated

When we sweat, we lose both fluid and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium). Electrolytes help maintain fluid balance in the body and actually help the body absorb water when we drink. Therefore, adding electrolytes (mainly sodium) to a beverage increases its ability to hydrate. Water alone does not contain adequate levels of electrolytes. 

Sports Drinks Provide A Quick Digesting Carbohydrate (aka Sugar)

During exercise, our muscles prefer to use carbohydrates (blood sugar/glucose) as fuel. Our bodies have a very small storage tank for carbohydrates, so it is important to provide the body with a continuous supply of quick sugars during exercise. This will help to fight muscle fatigue, keep energy levels high, and also help the body absorb water to hydrate. Carbs are truly a critical piece of how sports drinks function. 

Therefore, sports drinks are very necessary for athletic performance, especially when exercise intensity is high (games, tough practices), exercise duration is over 1 hour (games and practices), or if exercise is taking place outside in the heat. By providing the body with fluid, electrolytes, and quick sugars, sports drinks help to prevent dehydration and help to keep energy levels high for the muscles so that you can play at your best during the entire game. This, however, is not a recommendation for athletes to drink sports drinks all day long…while watching TV, playing video games, or as a drink with meals. Sports drinks should be utilized when they are needed…during practices and games.

Meal Delivery Service & Catering For Athletes

Sportsgrub provides meal delivery services and catering for athletic events throughout the Massachusetts area. If you have an upcoming game, sports camp, or another sporting event you would like nutritious meals for, we would be happy to help. Contact us for more information.

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