The Truth About Sports Drinks

I’ve successfully treated thousands of patents over the years using a very simple philosophy – your body knows what’s best for it.

That’s why whenever I finish one of my intense exercise workouts, nothing tastes better than pure, cold water – preferably at two degrees above freezing.

No flavors… No fizz…  No colors… No additives… Just good ol’ fresh water.

I don’t drink sports beverages like Gatorade and Powerade. And I don’t recommend them to the patients at my wellness clinic, either – even after strenuous game of tennis in the hot sun or long, hard round of golf in mid-July.

I believe these so-called “sports drinks” do more harm than good for most people, and many studies back me up.1, 2, 3, 4

And nobody should drink these high-calorie, high-sodium drinks because they’ve seen their favorite football or basketball star do it.

Most mainstream doctors will tell you nothing about the dangers of these drinks. Many will even talk about the benefits of their “electrolytes” – which means they help water travel among cells.

For a start, drinking anything with chemical dyes troubles me.

Do you really want to ingest something called Blue No. 1 and Yellow No. 5? These petroleum-based dyes have been linked to weakened immune systems and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. 5,6

But the biggest problem with sports drinks is that they’re loaded with sucrose and dextrose. A 20-ounce bottle can contain 34 grams of these sugar syrups. A 150-calorie bottle can contain the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.

These drinks have no protein, which is vital for rebuilding muscle and tissue after exercising. And they contain neither vitamins nor calcium.

There is no fiber either – to help your body absorb the sugar more slowly.

Instead, the sucrose and dextrose head straight to your liver, which converts them into fat.

And sports drinks don’t even quench your thirst.

A professor the University of Florida created Gatorade to revive players on the Gator football team after long, hot practices. And like other sports drinks, this one contains loads of sodium and potassium.

The body needs sodium and potassium for many biochemical functions. And you sweat out these electrolytes whenever you exercise.

So the makers of sports drinks load their brightly colored bottles with sodium and potassium. And they sell their drinks by promising to energize your body by replacing the lost electrolytes.

A typical 20-ounce sport drink contains 270 mg. of sodium and 75 mg. of potassium. But if you drink any of these salt-heavy sports drinks, you’ll actually become more thirsty.

And that’s the dirty little secret behind how many of these sports drinks really rehydrate you. You keep guzzling bottle after bottle to quench your thirst – while the drink makers keep raking in the cash.

In the United States alone, selling sports drinks brings in more than $1.5 billion-a-year. Multinational corporations, like PepsiCo and Big Pharma giant GSK, dominate the industry.

But studies have shown that ordinary water beats out sports drinks as the most efficient way for people to replenish lost fluids.

So do you really need to spend $2 or $3 a bottle on a sports drink to restore your get-up-and-go after an exercise session? No you don’t – unless you’ve pushed yourself to the limit for two or three hours, and maybe not even then.

People who want to lose weight should shun these syrupy concoctions. The sucrose and dextrose cause insulin spikes, which will trigger your body to store them as fat. Even worse, it will signal your bodies to stop breaking down old fat cells.

If you want to replenish any lost sodium, all you need to do is eat a normal meal. You can get plenty of potassium from sources that don’t have massive amounts of salt and sugar.

And if you’re concerned about your level of hydration, just check your urine color:

  • Pale or transparent yellow urine means  your hydration level is normal;
  • Dark yellow, amber or orange indicate a dehydrated state.

And here’s how you should rehydrate after each exercise session.

  • Drink water. It’s what your body has evolved to absorb. You need 4 to 6 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. That’s at least one full water glass every half hour.
  • Eat a piece of fruit. You’ll get natural sugars with fiber plus electrolytes. An average banana has 422 mg. of potassium. It also has vitamins B and C, manganese, and magnesium. An average clementine has 131 mg. of potassium. It also has vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and folate.
  • Eat protein. Ideally, you need at least an ounce of protein immediately after each exercise session to help your body repair stressed bone, muscle and tissue.
  • Treat yourself to coconut water. This is another refreshing, natural way to rehydrate and boost thyroid activity. Harvested from green coconuts, the smooth “milk” contains plenty of potassium.

You can buy coconut water from health-food and specialty grocery stores.

Make sure you buy bottles labeled “virgin,” which means it’s 100% coconut water with no sugar or flavorings.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Skerrett, Patrick J., “Trade sports drinks for water.” Harvard Health Publications. Posted July 30,2012. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
2. Gisolfi, C. V., et al. “Intestinal fluid absorption during exercise: role of sport drink osmolality and [Na+].” Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 33, No. 6, 2001, pp. 907–915.
3. Davis, J.M. “Fluid availability of sports drinks differing in carbohydrate type and concentration.” Am J Clin Nutr. June 1990 vol. 51 no. 61054-1057
4. Cohen, D. “The truth about sports drinks.” BMJ. July 19, 2012; 345: e4737. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
5. Vojdani A, and Vojdani C. “Immune reactivity to food coloring.” Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21(1 Suppl 1):52-62.
6. Stevens L.J., et al. “Mechanisms of behavioral, atopic, and other reactions to artificial food colors in children.” Nutr Rev. 2013 May;71(5):268-81. doi: 10.1111/nure.12023. Epub 2013 March 13.
7. Wilk, B., et al. “Effect of drink flavor and NaCL on voluntary drinking and hydration in boys exercising in the heat.” Journal of Applied Physiology, April 1, 1996. Vol. 80 No. 4,1112-1117DOI: