The Sports and PT Debate: Sports Drink or Water?

Feb 4, 2015

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

by Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

When you’re getting ready to go for a run do you reach for the water bottle or the sports drink in the fridge?
Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, experts in sports and PT, is here to investigate a highly debated topic surrounding hydration during exercise. Here’s the question: should we be drinking sports drinks or regular water?
According to experts, water is the best choice for athletes if they’re exercising less than 60 minutes.
But, if the work out is extended, the research becomes more contested.
Some experts say that adults exercising more than 60 minutes will lose considerable water from sweat, as well as electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium—in which case drinking sports drinks may be appropriate.
Experts advise athletes to pick brands with 14 grams of carbohydrates, 28 mg of potassium, and 100 mg of sodium per 8-ounce serving, if they are going to buy sports drinks.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, drinking sports drinks alone will not help replenish your body. Sports and PT experts say athletes and individuals exercising regularly should always drink water before and after workouts to help your body adjust to fluid loss. Additionally, active people should eat regularly before a workout to ensure they have enough carbohydrates before a workout.
But a study by the British Medical Journal argues against the praise surrounding sports drinks, and say their claims are inflated. The study found that of 431 performance-enhancing claims in advertisements for 104 different sports products, only 2.7% of their claims could be confirmed of high quality and at low risk of bias.
These claims raise questions about the $1.5 billion dollar sports drink industry.
Even though stars like Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Dwyane Wade are featured in Gatorade ads, it doesn’t mean their choice of drink should be ours. It’s safe to say professional athletes are just that—professionals, and their bodies are going to lose much more water and fluids over the course of a three hour game than the rest of us exercising for an hour or less.
Experts say you should buy sports drinks if you like the taste, but the benefits are little when exercising for less than an hour.
Additionally, while many sports drinks are within dietary guidelines, some contain well over the recommended amounts of sugar and potassium. Experts warn consumers to be cautious: always read the nutrition labels on sports drinks. Children are especially at risk for drinking too much sugar. While children can be active, overdrinking sugary sports drinks can still lead to childhood obesity, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Our physical therapy experts at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy know how to help get you on the right health track. If you have questions about your physical health and want advice on how to exercise properly, make an appointment today for your physical therapy consultation! To learn more about general sports and PT topics and what our certified physical therapists can do for you, check out the Foothills blog.

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