Weight loss tip: Avoid sports drinks

Weight Loss Tip 132 - Avoid Sports DrinksWeight Loss Tip 132 - Avoid Sports Drinks

Sports drinks can derail your weight loss.

Weight Loss Tip 132 - Avoid Sports Drinks

Weight Loss Tip 132 – Avoid Sports Drinks



There are hundreds of them on the market.   They are pretty much the same thing.  Sports drinks are dilute sugary some added sodium and potassium.  Each one of them is marketed as a performance improvement even though there is limited to no evidence that they work.  The sugar is supposed to add an energy supply during exercise, and the electrolytes (potassium and sodium) are there to replace the loss of sweat.  

In weight loss, a calorie deficit is essential along with the quality of the food you take in.  The problem with energy drinks is they are low-quality food sources with limited nutritional value sugar calories.  Sure energy drinks claim to have antioxidants, and some have a caffeine boost your energy level, but they are ultimately a source of empty calories.   A 32 ounce Gatorade has over 200 calories and 56 grams of sugar.  To burn this amount of calories, you would have to walk for 45 minutes, jog for 25 minutes or spend 30 minutes on the stairclimber.  

So do they replace your electrolytes?  Yes, sort of.  The problem with sports drinks is that they are a relatively weak source of electrolytes.  You would be better off waiting until after the run and eating a piece of fruit or a vegetable than to have a sports drink to replace your electrolytes.  Sure they might be a benefit for 10K runners and longer distances because they truly deplete their energy reserves and electrolytes, but the shorter distance runners, water is excellent at hydrating you.  

So what about the research behind sports drinks?  The most significant study done was completed at the University of Florida by a renal physician named Dr. Robert Cade.  His research led to the development of Gatorade.  His research led to the development of a new market that exploded with nutritional supplements and sports drinks.  This growing market profited not only Dr. Cade, but also the research is the University of Florida.  I’m not saying that researchers shouldn’t benefit from their work, but I what I am saying is that it should be based on sound research.  Recent research has cast a dark light of suspicion on the results that support the use of sports drinks[1].  The problem with much of the research on sports drinks is that it was performed or funded by manufacturers or organizations that have profited from their productions.  

The bottom line: Sports are full of sugar and are a source of empty calories.  I recommend that you stick to old faithful water to rehydrate and if you feel you need electrolytes, have a piece of fruit.  The research supporting the use of commercial rehydration solutions is suspect at best.  Avoid them.  


D. Cohen, “The truth about sports drinks.,” BMJ, vol. 345, p. e4737, Jul. 2012. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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