Real Athletes Drink Water

Rethink Your Sports Drink

As a pediatrician, I often ask kids: “What is the healthiest drink for an athlete?”  No, it is NOT Gatorade, I find myself saying all too often.  It is water.  “But aren’t sports drinks good?” I hear parents ask.  No!  In fact, most sports drinks are closer to poison.

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in sports drinks?  Water, high fructose corn syrup are the first two ingredients.  Yes, water and lots of poor quality sugar – 10 1/2 sugar packets per 20 oz bottle to be exact!

In other words, one 20 oz Gatorade contains 34 gms of sugar, equivalent to 12 pieces of Starburst!

However it’s even worse because HFCS is genetically modified, contains traces of the neurotoxin mercury, damages our liver and quickly turns into glycogen. What is glycogen? Stored sugar.  What happens to stored sugar?  It turns to fat!

The University of California at Berkeley warns that “students who drink one 20-ounce sports drink every day for a year can gain about 13 pounds!”

Granted, if you were running a marathon, a little glycogen can be a good thing.  But for the average athlete or person exercising, we want to use our glycogen stores, not create more.

How about the rest of the ingredients?  Depending on the flavor, there are natural and artificial flavors, salt, sodium citrate, yellow 6, glycerol ester of wood rosin, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), and red 40.  Most of these are toxins, with BVO being the most dangerous.  BVO is labeled as unsafe by the FDA, capable of causing multiorgan damage, birth defects and growth problems.

Yes, there are electolytes in sports drinks but the negatives of the other ingredients completely outweight any potential benefit.

Don’t think that the other commercial sports drinks are any better.  If you have any diet version, such as Propel, you are substituting the HFCS with sucralose.  This decreases the calories, but now you are drinking a chlorocarbon, similar to DDT and Lindane.  No long term (>12months) human studies have been performed on sucralose.  However, in animal studies, sucralose caused liver and kidney inflammation and damaged the immune system. Don’t be fooled by Vitamin Water which contains crystalline fructose which is very similar to HFCS.  While PowerAde has less salt, it is likely the most toxic sports drink having 40% more sugar, in the form of HFCS, and also chemical sweeteners phenylalanine (which converts into formaldehyde) and sucralose.

If increased weight gain and all the toxins aren’t convincing enough, consider your teeth.  Sports drinks dissolve tooth enamel, but the damage is far worse in athletes who drink them while exercising. This is due to reduced saliva during exercise, frequent sipping, and the fact that most sports drinks have a pH < 3, consequently causing 30x more erosion than if an athlete just drank water.

While water is sufficient hydration for most athletes, coconut water is great for serious athletesCoconut water is high in potassium, chlorides, calcium, and magnesium, with a modest amount of sodium, sugar, and protein. Add a pinch of Celtic Sea salt to add a few more trace minerals and sodium and it’s perfect.  Often called “natures’ sports drink,” coconut water is even given intravenously for dehydration in tropical areas.

The next time you want a drink, READ the ingredients and THINK for yourself about what’s in it and what you are trying to achieve.

Your body will thank you for it!

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