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Pros and cons of sports drinks; water may be just as beneficial when sweating

Posted by Jamie Gnebba on January 30, 2009

Even many athletes who use sports drinks don’t know the nutritional value. We talked to some Michigan State University athletes and told them about a few of the studies we found.



Sometimes the sound of Lemon-Lime or Gatorade Frost sound better than plain old water. But before you reach for that sports drink to quench your thirst, there are a few things you should know.

Sports Drinks vs. Water

Every commercial for sports drinks emphasizes the benefits of replenishing electrolytes that you sweat out during exercise. If you are the professional athlete in that commercial then that is probably beneficial, but for many others that is not the case.

Studies have shown that the loss of electrolytes is not extremely prevalent unless you are sweating profusely for over 60 minutes. Until that time, water is able to replenish what the body loses in sweat.

No excess weight

Another reason you may not be so eager to grab a sports drink is on the label. A 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade Rain contains 75 calories, 21 grams of sugar and 165 milligrams of sodium. A report from the University of California at Berkeley‘s Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health warned that students who drink one 20-ounce sports drink every day for a year may gain about 13 pounds.

Keeping your teeth healthy

One thing many people don’t think about while drinking is their teeth. A study done at the University of Iowa shows that the common sports drink, Gatorade, erodes teeth faster than Coke. Researchers dunked teeth in test tubes filled with regular Coke, Diet Coke, Gatorade, Red Bull, or 100 percent apple juice.

Every five hours, the researchers refreshed the beverages. After 25 hours, they examined the teeth with a microscope. All of the teeth showed erosion, but different beverages had significantly different effects.

On the enamel, Gatorade was significantly more corrosive than Red Bull and Coke. Red Bull and Coke, in turn, were significantly more corrosive than Diet Coke and apple juice.

What is in sports drinks?

After looking at the label on sports drinks a little more, the unsettling fact arises that the three main ingredients they contain are water, high fructose corn syrup, and salt.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the number one source of calories in the US. It is the most prevalent sweetener used in foods and beverages today, and has been clearly linked to the rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome.

In addition, a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains approximately 275 milligrams of sodium, almost 12 percent of the recommended daily allowance for people ages 14 to 18. Already, more than 75 percent of children consume more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, according to the Institute of Medicine.


If you are going to drink a sports drink, remember these helpful tips

For exercise or physical exertion lasting less than 1 hour:
• Plain water works just fine and is cost effective.
• If the flavor of a sports drink is more
appealing, that’s fine to drink, too. Just
remember, sports drinks are not calorie- or

For extended periods of exercise or for physical exertion lasting 1 hour or more:
• Sports drinks containing carbohydrates and
electrolytes help prevent dehydration and
restore important minerals lost through
perspiration, and they produce better hydration
than water.


15 Responses to “Pros and cons of sports drinks; water may be just as beneficial when sweating”

  1. James Andersen said

    I love the interspersing of information with the comments from people. I also like the edits of people’s answers one right after another. reminds me of that L.A. Times video we watch about the election and this technique is pretty common in video.

  2. Kelly Wilson said

    I like that when everyone has the same answer you show them one after another, it just goes to show that most people have a very specific view of sports drinks, also goes to show that often their not really fact-based.

  3. Jesse Kasper said

    Great video!
    The transitions are well thought out and I love the varied responses.

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  8. Kiddo said

    OMG!! Love the video!! I can’t believe that gatorade does that to your teeth and that if u drink it for a year you can gain 13 pounds!! Whoa…. Thanks for the info

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