In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, you may be thinking more about Gatorade than you usually do. Gatorade and other sports drinks are failing to see much growth in the market. There are several reasons people may be turning away from the beverages. While we usually focus on the sugar content when talking about the drinks, now we’re looking at what they do to heart health.
Gatorade, a staple of sporting events, may see a boost in sales after the big game, but they haven’t seen the growth they want. People no longer find the rehydrating aspect of sports drinks to be a draw as more and more beverages are released with extra-hydrating benefit claims. Moreover, their high sugar content is a huge turn off to may people. While the largest producers have introduced calorie-free versions, the consumers in their marketing demographics are leaning more toward energy drinks. Electrolytes are passé, whereas sports energy drinks are in — drinks like Bang and Reign have no sugar but a lot of caffeine. Other growing brands are making energy drinks based off of coconut water, a trendy but unproven health product.
If you have a long, vigorous workout, you may benefit from sports drinks. They have minerals, potassium and electrolytes that can help you if you have been sweating for a long time. Otherwise, they are mostly salty sugar water. A low- or zero-calorie version gives you the electrolytes without as much sugar. If you work out for a long time, or in extreme heat, you may lose so much salt from your body that normal water causes you to get drunk as water can dilute the salt in your blood.
That salt can be harmful when you aren’t working out or possibly very ill. Even diet sports drinks are packed with salt that has no place being in your body if you are sitting at a desk or going for a gentle walk. A 32-ounce bottle, which many people drink completely, has 200 calories, 56 grams of sugar 440 milligrams of sodium — which is 20 percent or your daily intake. The American Heart Association says that, at most, a woman should have no more than 24 grams of sugar, and men should be limited to 36. A pound of sweat has 500 milligrams of sodium; you have to work out for well over an hour to sweat that much. Excess salt can cause high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. A serving of Gatorade is just eight ounces, but most people ignore — or aren’t aware of — that serving size.
A study from UC Berkeley linked sugary energy drinks during childhood to being heavier as an adult and having medical problems such as heart disease or diabetes. They are also high in food coloring, which may be linked to health problems, cancer and hyperactivity. If you are seeking a boost after a workout, a banana may be the way to go: filled with potassium, carbs and fiber. A little salt with protein may be an extra boon, such as string cheese.
For the most part, we would suggest steering away from sports drinks. Of course, you know your preferences and activity levels, but if you have concerns, speak to your doctor about what’s right for you.