USA USA USA!!! The World Cup is now going into the second round and the US team is advancing! It is exciting for us Americans. It is also inspiring to see these athletes and their perfect physiques. Sometimes after watching a game, I imagine that I too can run at such speeds and with such agility. It will inspire me to go for a run, but as I hit 0.2 miles, I am sorely reminded that I am not a professional athlete. I am tired and thirsty, really thirsty. It is 100 degrees here. I am motivated to make it home quickly to grab the ice cold glass of...What do you drink when you exercise? What do you keep on hand to hydrate with?
This World Cup is sponsored by Powerade. Just as watching the sport can make you feel as though you too could be a professional athlete, it may make you feel that you need to replenish your electrolytes like an athlete after your 8 minute air conditioned elliptical work out. Unfortunately, that is not true. For MOST of us, water is all we need because we spend less than 60 minutes a day on intense exercise. And if you are like me, it would be hard to call any of my exercise "intense" these days. Any sports drink for the moderate exerciser, even if it feels like an intense 25 minutes, has no known benefits.
Now, to my super hard core friends (college athletes, marathon runners, triathletes, iron woman, long distance bikers), first of all, you amaze me. Your dedication and disciple has all my respect. I know many of you are parents and work full time and volunteer and then somehow find time to work out 2-3 hours a day. These sports drinks were developed for you. After 60 minutes of strenuous exercise (not golf), your body can benefit from added glucose and electrolytes. Gatorade and Powerade are the two most popular brands. You may have seen in the news that they had been using brominated vegetable oil (BVO) as a food additive (this is also used in Fanta and Mountain Dew). This had been "generally recognized as safe," but the FDA reversed that decision and now BVO is only allowed in limited amounts and is under further investigation. The concern is that bromine (a flame retardant) accumulates in the body and the long term effects are uncertain. Gatorade removed BVO from all their products, however Powerade continues to use BVO as allowed.
My recommendations: limit your sugary drink intake. Choose water, milk, or an occasional glass or juice. For the extreme athletes doing more than 60 minutes of strenuous exercise, the market is growing for more natural sports drinks. Read your labels and know what you are consuming.
Coconut water has become all the rage for the natural alternative to sports drinks. For $2-3 per bottle you can get a serving of coconut water which contains 45 calories per 8oz and naturally contains electrolytes similar to the concentration in your blood. As with any trendy food/drink, many magical health claims are being made about coconut water. I wouldn't count on coconut water curing cancer, reversing diabetes, or eliminating your wrinkles but it can be a more natural alternative to the sports drink if you have the cash to spend.
Don't be fooled by the excitement of the World Cup and start pounding sports drinks every time you put on your running shoes. Drink responsibly and cheer on team USA!!
EXTRA: For most everything I post on this blog, I do not post my personal opinions. I stick primarily to the science and facts. However, I would like to add a little personal side note on this topic that I have not found address in the literature: Sports drinks for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Around the middle of my second trimester, I was working 9-14 hour days on my feet, and I started having Braxton Hicks contractions no matter how much water I could find time to drink. I tried many different foods and drinks, but the only two things that worked for me were either not being on my feet all day (which was not an option) or Gatorade. If I drank one bottle of Gatorade per day, I would not have the contractions. Of note, I would have chosen coconut water, but I had nausea throughout my entire pregnancy, and I could not stomach it at that time. After delivery, when I wanted to start exercising again, my milk supply would drop the more I would run. I found that even though my works outs were not even close to 60 minutes, I could keep my milk supply up by drinking coconut water to replenish (and I found numerous nursing mom blogs of runners who made the same recommendations). This is not sound nutrition advice, just from one mom to another.
Nutrition from the dietitian
Blog of Abrea Nutrition.