The Commonwealth Games will soon be underway, and this will lead to an increase in advertisements for sports drinks, sports wear, energy gels and protein bars. While Gatorade may be the official sports drink of the Commonwealth Games, this does not mean that you have to follow suit. Sports drinks are widely sold in grocery stores, health centers and on the high street, but are they all they make out to be?
Many athletes will be paid to promote energy foods and drinks, but this doesn’t mean that pro athletes and sports nutritionists are hooked on the supposed benefits of such products. Nutrition expert David Katz claims that sports drinks are similar to soda, but the marketing is done in such a way to make the consumer believe it could turn him or her into an athlete. Many people forget that sugar is the prime ingredient in many of these sports drinks, and sugar is loaded with calories and is very addictive.
What Do Manufacturers and Experts Say About Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks like Gatorade claim to rehydrate the body faster by providing essential electrolytes—small chemicals that help the body function efficiently. Potassium and sodium are lost through perspiration, and sports drinks claim to replenish these levels. Sodium (or salt) is an essential electrolyte, as it transfers electrical signals to the muscles and brain. Dehydration—hypernatremia— can lead to muscle weakness, but drinking too much water—hyponatremia—is associated with thyroid problems and brain disease.
As the body perspires during exercise, this liquid must be replaced, but the loss of electrolytes can cause general weakness. This is where sports drinks like Gatorade claim to help. Leslie Bonci, a consultant for Gatorade, boasts that the body can absorb Gatorade more quickly than water alone. The sugar in Gatorade provides the needed calories that are absent in water. What sports drink manufacturers fail to mention, however, is that electrolytes are found naturally in milk, grains, vegetables, fruits and coconut water. Other experts state that the sugar content may create havoc in the body, as the higher a food on the glycemic index, the quicker the body can fatigue through the sugar slump.
Do Sports Drinks Replenish The Body Post Workout?
Manufacturers of sports drinks not only encourage consumers to drink during exercise, but prior to and post exercise. The sugar is not beneficial to teeth, and if these sugar starches are not burnt off, they could settle on the body and cause unwanted weight gain.
A popular brand, GU Energy, claims that one of their gel packs provides sufficient energy before a workout, but the consumer should also suck on an energy pack every 45 to 60 minutes into the workout. At 100 calories per pack, the body will be consuming more calories than it burns off. The manufacturer then recommends additional products to use post workout.
The Downside To Using Sports Drinks
Manufacturers do not care if the consumer if under or overweight. Their only motivation is to sell the product, and they will hire experts with knowledge of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to sell a product. The focus of this type of marketing is to make the consumer want something, and it is effective worldwide.
With nutritional experts claiming that obesity is on the rise, even children are now drinking sugary sports drinks and sodas at break time, which can cause weight gain and hyperactivity.
Manufacturers are unlikely to claim that their product causes weight gain more than its original claim that the product fuels the body, but the use of celebrities to endorse the product encourages the consumer to buy it. Gary Fisher, mountain biking legend, claims that these “engineered nutrition” products can encourage more weight gain than muscle mass. The athlete puts in the hard work, but struggles to lose the gut. Gary prefers to consume a healthy meal prior to a workout, and then snacks on bananas throughout his bike ride. Afterward, he eats a healthy serving of chicken or fish with salad.
Ultra marathoner, Scott Jurek, drinks smoothies before his 30-mile training workouts, eats hummus wraps and rice balls while traveling, and consumes beans, quinoa, tempe, and brown rice afterward.
Energy gels are versatile and replenish the body quickly, but they can could cause overheating and further dehydrate the body. The South African sports nutritionist, Timothy Noakes, mentions that water is effective enough to treat dehydration, and sports drink companies publicize the fact that their products fuel the body better than water.
5 Natural Ways To Energise and Hydrate The Body
- Fruits and vegetables: Many consumers forget that fruits and vegetables contain water. Even bananas contain 80 percent water. Eating an apple prior to a workout provides natural sugars and prevents the common sugar slump caused by processed foods and drinks.
- Black coffee: Many sports drinks and gels contain caffeine, as it is a useful weight loss aid. Caffeine is a potent antioxidant, important to help the body recover, whilst also supporting overall immune health. Coffee also encourages the release of free fatty acids, which can be oxidized during a workout. Drink black coffee on an empty stomach, but only in moderation. The stimulation to the central nervous system increases the body’s metabolism. However, experts recommend that you avoid the consumption of caffeine with carbohydrates, as the increased insulin production can interfere with its fat burning effects.
- Nuts and Seeds: Buy the unsalted varieties of nuts and seeds. A handful before a workout supplies the body with protein and energy. They are also useful to eat post workout.
- Coconut water: It tastes delicious, is nutritionally dense, and it contains electrolytes to replenish the body prior to, during, and post workout.
- Fiber rich/protein rich foods: Try whole wheat bread, protein bars made with dried fruit and pecan nuts prior to a workout, and consume fish, poultry and other lean meats after a workout.
Sports drinks may be popular, but experts believe they can cause more harm than good. They recommend that the body would benefit better from natural foods and drinks, including coconut water, fruits and vegetables, and black coffee before a workout.