We’ve all seen the pictures of basketball players, tennis players, and runners guzzling down a bottle of Gatorade or Lucozade after a game or a match. Sports drinks companies create marketing campaigns that make their beverages look like rejuvenating elixirs of life. While sports drinks were designed to help athletes maintain energy and muscle strength, it turns out these beverages might not be the healthy beverage that is promised.

Photographer: Ethan McArthur | Source: Unsplash

This article will look into sports drinks and uncover the truth. We’ll explain how sports drinks can be included in a healthy diet, and, on the flip side, how too many bottles can lead to serious health problems. Lastly, we’ll leave you with tips to help you choose the healthiest sports drink for your situation.

What Is a Sports Drink?

A sports drink is a beverage that contains electrolytes and is designed to be consumed after or during strenuous physical activity. When we exercise, we lose fluids and electrolytes through sweat. Without the right amount of fluid and electrolytes in your body, you will quickly become tired and inefficient.

How do Sports Drinks Work?

To understand the way sports drinks can keep our energy levels up during physical activity, we need to understand the concept of electrolytes and how they work in the human body. Electrolytes are particles that carry either a positive or negative energy charge. We get electrolytes through the food we eat, which in turn gives our bodies the energy they need to function. When we lose electrolytes through activity or illness, it’s important to replenish them in order to retain normal energy levels. Electrolytes in food include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate

When we don’t have adequate levels of electrolytes in the body, we will start to experience general fatigue. A lack of electrolytes effects:

  • The nervous system
  • Muscle function
  • Proper hydration
  • Internal pH levels

When these systems are affected, you may begin to experience symptoms such as fatigue, numbness, confusion, weakness, headaches, and convulsions. For athletes, staying energetic and alert is crucial for health and performance. Sports drinks were created to combat the symptoms associated with the loss of electrolytes through sweat during physical activity. Gatorade was the first sports drink. It was created in 1965 by scientists at the University of Florida to help the gators, the local football team, to perform well in intense heat.

What Makes Sports Drinks Healthy or Unhealthy?

Sports drinks are healthy in so far as they can help you to replenish electrolytes. However, because they can contain lots of added sugars and food colorings to make them more appealing. While these ingredients aren’t harmful in moderation, they can be detrimental to your health over time if you consume them too frequently. Essentially, sports drinks are only unhealthy when they are consumed too frequently.

How Much is Too Much?

If you’re concerned that you are consuming too many sports drinks, try to cut back. Ideally, sports drinks should only be consumed when you need to replenish electrolytes. This tends to be after vigorous exercise, after vomiting, or in extreme heat. If you have gotten into the habit of drinking a sports drink on a daily basis, you are probably consuming too much sugar.

Risks of Over-Consumption

If you are drinking too many sports drinks, you can expect to see the following health problems develop over time:

  • Weight gain
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Headaches
  • Jitters
  • High blood pressure

What Are The Healthiest Sports Drinks?

If you are trying to cut down on sports drinks, or you are just trying to find the best possible sports drink, here is a guide to the healthiest sports drink brands on the market.

Electrolyte Water

More and more companies are creating healthier, sugar-free versions of electrolyte drinks. Electrolyte tablets can be dropped into a glass of water to create an energizing beverage without negative ingredients. Try the Zym Endurance Sport Drink Tablet, a premium quality, zero sugar tablet that will help you regain energy during strenuous exercise.

Halo Sport Drink

HALO makes excellent sports drinks that are organic, vegan-friendly, and low calorie. In fact, these drinks contain fewer calories than coconut water. These drinks are great for people who are looking for a tasty, energizing beverage without added sugars and artificial coloring.

Powerade Sport Drink

Powerade is a well-known sport drink brand that is known for its high magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 content.  It contains more micronutrients than Gatorade, however, it does contain higher amounts of sugar than other healthier brands.

Vega Sport Drink

Vega Sport Electrolyte is a powder that can be added to water to give it energizing, hydrating powers. This option is healthier than the average bottled sports drinks on your supermarket’s shelves, because of its low carb content.

Gatorade Zero

We have looked into Gatorade in the past, so you can find out how healthy Gatorade is in various situations by checking out this article. We recommend opting for Gatorade Zero, which contains zero sugars. This is our favorite zero sports drink.

FAQs About Sports Drinks

Are there any ketogenic sports drinks?

The Ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in the past few years. The diet demands that you remove most carbohydrates from your diet, replacing them with healthy fats. Most electrolyte beverages have a high amount of carbohydrates (or sugars). However, there are plenty of keto-friendly sports drinks. Try one of these keto-friendly options:

  • Vega Sport Energizer
  • Norma Organic Electrolyte Drink
  • ZipFizz
  • Celsius

If you are trying the keto diet, try to look for sports drinks or electrolyte tablets with a low carb content.

Are there any sports drinks without sugar and are there any low carb sports drinks?

Yes, plenty of sports drinks come without added sugars. Try looking for drinks with “zero” on the label, or try electrolyte tablets that can be added to water.

Can you make your own sports drinks at home?

Sports drinks don’t have to be bought. In fact, you can make your own drinks at home that are filled with energizing electrolytes. Many people recommend trying a homemade pickle juice sports drink as a remedy for muscle cramps. This is because it contains plenty of salt and vinegar, which can help to replenish the body’s electrolytes. Essentially, sports drinks need to contain sodium in order to be successful. Add ingredients like salt, lemon juice, coconut water, and fruit juice.

Final Thoughts

Sports drinks are a great addition to your diet if you exercise frequently or live in an excessively humid climate. Use sports drinks to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat or dehydration. However, try to avoid consuming sports drinks when you don’t need to. Many store-bought sports drinks contain excessive amounts of carbohydrates and sugars, which, over time, can lead to health complications. If you are looking for a healthier option, opt for low-sugar drinks. Remember, health is all about consuming things in moderation, so try to limit your sports drink intake to a few bottles a week.