BY JACQUELINE KLOOS
Long promoted as a necessary advantage to athletes, the sports drink industry remains controversial. The question stands: are sports drinks actually beneficial to athletes? Not only do they provide no more hydration than water, but they also contain unnecessary carbohydrates and calories.
So, why are sports drinks a $5 billion-per-year industry? Companies that manufacture sports drinks appeal mainly to athletes, convincing them that the drinks will better their performance.
“I drink Powerade for softball,” junior Alex Allamon said. The varsity softball player added, “I feel like it gives me more energy than water.”
While sports drinks don’t allow for better absorption than water, the sweet taste can act as an incentive, keeping athletes hydrated because it keeps them drinking. The salts can help our bodies retain water, too, which can protect against a rare condition called hyponatremia, where dangerously low levels of sodium are present in the blood.
Additionally, sports drinks are full of electrolytes, electrically charged ions that are lost through sweat.
However, the average high school athlete is not training hard enough to require the supplements provided in drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade. For most people, the salt and electrolytes lost through exercise can be replenished by a standard meal.
“Sports drinks aren’t necessary for everyone,” Rae Leskowitz said. A former dietician, she added, “Most people need nothing more than water and proper nutrition.”
Sports drinks also contain carbohydrates which work to provide energy.
For an inactive person, these carbohydrates provide unnecessary calories.
For an athlete in the midst of a rigorous workout, these carbohydrates can provide consistent and beneficial energy.
There are obvious benefits and detriments to sports drinks, and the research is still spotty. However, the bottom line is: unless you are a professional athlete, the electrolytes and added calories are most likely of little use to you.