Sports drinks have become so ingrained in the athletic image that it’s hard to imagine a sideline or gym without them. But are sports drinks good for you? Turns out, they may not support your fitness plan in quite the way you want. Learn more about the downsides to this popular beverage and some healthy and refreshing substitutes below.
The Importance Of Proper Hydration
Plain water provides your body with the most natural and efficient source of hydration. Staying properly hydrated by drinking water is crucial for your overall health. It is responsible for:
- Regulating body temperature
- Keeping joints lubricated and flexible
- Delivering nutrients to your body and cells
- Maintaining organ functions1
What Happens When You Work Out?
As you run those laps or lift those weights, you begin to sweat. As you do this, your body loses water and electrolytes, which can result in dehydration. So, it’s important to return those fluids to your body after intense exercise to maintain normal bodily functions.2
If you work out extensively, you will need to replenish your electrolytes as well. Electrolytes are minerals in the body that help control things like water retention and muscle function. But, you will need to drink something other than water for electrolyte replenishment — because water doesn’t naturally contain electrolytes.3
Queue up sports drinks, with their added ingredients that can restore lost electrolytes. However, it’s worth noting that the average person won’t lose significant electrolytes unless they exercise for longer than 60 to 90 minutes. And, even if you work out extensively, there are still healthy and natural ways to replenish lost electrolytes and prevent dehydration.4
Good Or Bad?
Sports drinks are often marketed as a healthy beverage to restore electrolytes and hydrate endurance athletes. It contains large amounts of sugar as a key ingredient for providing elite athletes with the energy they need to recover.5
However, you probably don’t need a sports drink. In fact, most people who drink sports drinks aren’t physically active enough to burn off the drink’s sugar content.6
Due to the high levels of sugar, both the CDC and American Heart Association consider most sports drinks (and other sports drinks) to be sugary drinks that are comparable to soda.7,8
In most cases, sports drinks is an impractical hydration choice and an unnecessary source of sugar, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and artificial food dyes.9
Concerns With Sugary Beverages
Sugary sports drinks are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet. All that additional sugar in sports drinks can contribute to a number of potential health risks, including everything from increased body weight to tooth decay and unhealthy blood sugar levels.10
Sugary drinks also contain lots of calories. People who consume all those excess calories as a liquid don’t tend to feel full in the same way as they do when they eat. Often, they won’t compensate for these extra calories and continue to eat normal amounts, which can lead to weight gain.11
Healthy And Hydrating Substitutes
So what are some healthy, hydrating options other than sports drinks? Tony Horton encourages athletes to hydrate with wholesome ingredients and natural flavors. Below, you can find some of his go-to beverages for during and after a workout. They provide your body with that much-needed hydration, plus those crucial electrolytes to keep you performing at optimal levels.
You may well call coconut water “Nature’s sport drink” with all its natural electrolytes and flavor. The juice from coconuts contains various minerals like potassium, calcium, and sodium. Plus, it’s naturally low in sugar — with only about 46 calories per serving. All and all, it can make for a healthy substitute for sports drinks.12
Homemade Lemon And Ginger Drink
Lemon water can be a great option for anyone moving away from sweetened sports drinks. The bright flavor envigorates your water’s taste, and the lemon supplies a boost of potassium to restore your electrolytes. You can improve your drink’s flavor even further by adding some freshly sliced ginger and a dash of agave nectar for natural sweetness.13,14
Make A Smoothie
A fresh, homemade smoothie is a natural and delicious way to replenish electrolytes after a workout. You can add fruits and veggies like bananas, mangoes, strawberries, kale, and spinach for all-natural replenishment. Smoothies can be more filling than water or other beverages, so drink smaller amounts before or after a workout. And consider going heavier on veggies, and using low-sugar fruits to cut back on calories.15,16
Eat Some Watermelon
Your hydration and electrolyte replenishment can also come from certain foods. Watermelon, for example, is almost 92% water, so it assists with rehydration after a big workout. It also contains important electrolytes and carbohydrates that can help support your heart and muscles. The relatively low calorie count – 40 per serving – also makes it a healthy option compared to energy drinks. It also happens to taste great after a big workout.17,18
Explore Healthy, Natural Workout Beverages
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your body and fitness goals. But, keep in mind that a typical bottle of a sports drink contains nearly as much sugar or artificial sweetener as a can of soda. Consuming that much excess sugar on a regular basis has proven negative side effects on your health.
Fortunately, there are plenty of all-natural, healthy ways to hydrate and replenish your lost electrolytes. So, try a few of Tony Horton’s favorite workout beverages for a tasty, refreshing option for your next workout.
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