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Medicine or Malarkey: Are Sports Drinks as Healthy as Water?

Sports drinks are a part of a multibillion dollar industry, with the average American consuming 4.3 gallons of sports drinks per year. The newest players on the market, so-called vitamin waters or enhanced water beverages, have skyrocketed in popularity because of their health claims. People may drink these beverages because they want to get extra vitamins in their diet, or they may believe that these drinks hydrate them even better than water. But how do these drinks hold up to scrutiny when evaluating their health benefits? You might be surprised to find there are numerous ingredients in sports beverages and vitamin waters that should alarm you!

Sports Drinks Contain Huge Amounts of Sugar

Perhaps the most concerning culprit in sports beverages is the sheer amount of sugar these drinks contain. When you’re feeling thirsty, would you grab a spoon and dig into a bowl of sugar? Probably not. Yet that is essentially what people are doing when they drink popular sports drinks. Many brands of sports beverages or enhanced waters contain upwards of 30 grams of sugar, or close to an entire day’s recommended allowance!The recommended daily amount of sugar is 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men.

Just a single sports drink could tip you over your recommended daily allowance of sugar. Why is the daily allowance important? Consuming too much added sugar is associated with higher risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health problems. Eliminating sports drinks from your diet is a step in the right direction to minimize these risks.

Sports Beverages Add Excess Calories to Your Diet

In addition to being high in sugar, sports beverages often add excess calories to your diet. Many people think about meals and snacking when trying to lose weight, but they often forget about the calories in the beverages they drink. A common brand of vitamin-enhanced water contains 120 calories per serving, which can quickly add up. Check labels before purchasing sports beverages to make sure they do not add too many calories and contribute to weight gain.

Plain Old Water is Just as Good at Hydrating Your Body

Many people who choose enhanced waters or sports drinks do so because of brands’ claims that these beverages are even better at hydrating your body than regular water, Sports drinks contain electrolytes, a type of charged ion that helps regulate your hydration levels. While electrolytes are certainly important, most of us are not at risk of developing an electrolyte imbalance on a daily basis. The foods we eat provide us with plenty of electrolytes, so sticking to plain water is often a smarter choice. Note: the exception to this rule is if you engage in vigorous intensity physical activity for 30 minutes or longer. Then, it is a smart idea to drink a beverage that contains electrolytes to replenish your body. Following up with regular water will help ensure you get all the hydration you need.

Most of the time, drinking sugary-high-calorie sports drinks is just plain malarkey. Stick to water to get all of the benefits and to prevent dehydration!