Food & Health News

Sports Drinks & Vitamin Waters: Are They Healthy?

What do our dietitians think about sports drinks and vitamin waters? Not much.

Q: What do you think of sports drinks and vitamin waters?

A: The short answer is, not much. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade got their reputation by being associated with professional athletes, a clever piece of branding if there ever was one.

Athletes who train for endurance events like marathons, ultramarathons and triathlons will frequently train for hours a day, as will professional tennis players and football players. A 300-pound linebacker training in summer while wearing protective gear could easily lose 3% of his body weight, which means he has sweat out a whopping 1.08 gallons! And with that water, he loses a lot of electrolytes like sodium and chloride. (Electrolytes are substances that carry electrical charges and are essential for life.)

Enter sports drinks like Gatorade.

But sports drinks didn’t grow to be a 7-billion-dollar industry by marketing to the relatively small population of professional, hard-training athletes who might benefit from hydration enhanced with electrolytes. So they aggressively market to teenagers, weekend warriors, the executive who does a 30-minute jog after work or the people lining up for the 6 p.m. spin class at Equinox.

For these regular folks, sports drinks are ridiculous.

First of all, most have as many chemicals as soda. Second, they frequently have as much sugar. Third, you don’t need them. And fourth, you pay a premium for them.

See also The Healthiest Water Options.

Unless you’re Michael Phelps, stick with water. If you want to flavor it, add some lemon or lime and even a pinch of stevia. If you’re an average active person, there is absolutely nothing in these drinks that you need, and a lot that you don’t.