Gatorade and Sports Drinks

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I see swimmers in my workouts bringing their Gatorade bottles or other sports drinks to the pool with them, and sipping them throughout practice. Hydration is good most of the time, but is water enough or do we need something extra while we work out?

There are a wide variety of sports drinks available, most containing some type of glucose (sugar), and many with various amounts of electrolytes. These can be helpful in long training or competition. However, according to Dr. Phil Maffetone (coach of 6-time Ironman champion Mark Allen), in short workouts of an hour or less, “only plain water matches the needs of every athelete.” (Eating for Endurance, 74, 1999).

Maffetone goes on to say that “consuming large amounts of carbohydrate drinks before workouts or competitions can have an adverse affect on performance.”

This assessment makes sense to me. Overloading your body with carbohydrates tends to give you a quick boost of energy followed by a slow “crash” where you will actually feel more tired.

If you love your Gatorade and even drink it during shorter workouts, try watering it down. Notice the affect it has on how you feel. Experiment with other, non-sugar containing electrolyte products like SmartWater. These drinks also contain electrolytes and a small amount of sodium which can help with your recovery.

The key is to find what works best for you, while keeping in mind that the highly commercialized sports drinks contain a lot of sugar. This can be hard for your body to process in short workouts, and can add extra, unneeded calories to your diet resulting in potential sluggishness and unwanted weight gain!

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