"Healthy" is a relative term in the world of marketing. There isn’t much regulation on the use of that word, so products marked as “healthy” actually might not be as good for you as you think. Sports drinks and supplemented water products are fine examples. The appeal of sports drinks is mostly flavor, not the additives or the promise of good health. Manufacturers dress these drinks up to make you feel good about your choice, but what is the truth?
The majority of these drinks contain lots of sugar. That is why you feel energized after drinking one. In addition, many add what they refer to as electrolytes or vitamins and minerals. That usually amounts to salt and potassium. They may benefit a professional athlete training for eight hours a day in 90-degree heat, but the average exerciser doesn’t need more salt in their life.
While the exact recipe varies by product, the one thing they almost always add to your day is calories. The average sports drink has about 50 calories with three teaspoons of sugar per cup and some go as high as 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, according to Harvard Medical School.
The best, most satisfying drink in the world in also the most natural: water! If you combine plenty of water with a proper diet and the right amount of sleep, you don’t need the extra sugar and minerals.
Let thirst be your guide when you exercise. If you find you get thirsty while exercising, increase the amount of water you are drinking before and during the workout. If you make it through your regular fitness program without getting thirsty, you are drinking just the right amount.
If your problem is endurance or energy slumps, then make some changes to your diet. Increase the fiber-rich carbs like fruits and vegetables and add whole-grains and lean proteins to each meal. Instead of three big meals a day, switch to five small ones evenly spaced out to keep your energy up. You’ll get more benefit from a palm-sized portion of walnuts before your workout than any sports drink.
If water doesn’t appeal to you, then jazz it up to make it taste good. Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner offers a recipe that will be tasty and boost your energy level. Mix together the following:
3 ½ cups water
½ cup orange juice
2 ½ tbsp honey
¼ tsp salt
This drink offers just enough salt to help replenish what you lose when you sweat, some natural sugars and 14 grams carbohydrates for energy. You can switch out the fresh juice to try different flavors, such as lemon.
Processed sports drinks are just that – processed. Learn to quench your thirst the more natural way by drinking plenty of water.