Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gatorade: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Gatorade is one of the most popular commercial sports drink on the market today and has been a powerhouse in the realm of athletic performance for several years. However there appears to be some confusion surrounding its potential benefits. Can it improve performance? Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? In this post we explore Gatorade and why it can be your best friend and your worst enemy depending on who you are and what you're doing.

The Good
It's delicious and nothing hits the spot more after an intense workout or race when it's 90 degrees out and you've been sweating for 2 hours straight. One of the reasons it tastes so good is because of the sugar content. Sugar often gets a bad rap because of its obesogenic behaviors and the role it has played in the rise of metabolic related disorders such as Type II Diabetes. However, Gatorade was designed as a sports drink and athletes have unique nutritional needs compared to sedentary individuals. During intense bouts of training or athletic competitions, the body relies heavily on muscle glycogen for fuel which is the storage form of carbohydrates within the body.  Therefore, during and after training it is important to replenish these used fuel sources and a great way to do that is by drinking them in sports beverages as then you are also replenishing any lost fluids during training. In addition, Gatorade also contains several electrolytes that we also lose during sweat and are important to get back in our system.  So during periods of intense training or in a hot environment, Gatorade can be a great way to re-fuel and re-hydrate to prepare for subsequent training sessions or competitions.

The Bad
As was mentioned above, Gatorade has a fairly high amount of sugar which if you’re competing in a lengthy event can improve performance. However, a lot of times people drink Gatorade when they don’t necessarily have to. For example, I see a lot of young athletes drinking the 32 oz. Gatorades during a 40 minute basketball game when there is no way they are A) Utilizing enough of their glycogen stores (stored sugars) to require an external energy source (sugar) during their game; or B) Sweating enough to the point where they would need to replace lost electrolytes. Throughout the course of a multi-game tournament they could probably benefit from 1, 32 oz. Gatorade just not 3 as is often common practice.

The Ugly

A lot of people look at Gatorade or Powerade as a “healthy” alternative to soda. I saw this all the time in College and people opted for Gatorade because it was “lower in sugar…” Let’s take a look at the sugar content and compare:

Essentially there isn’t much of a difference.  If anything you may as well opt for the soda and get some caffeine. Gatorade can be a good thing for certain people.... in certain situations.  However when you are sitting down for a meal or at work, Gatorade IS NOT a healthy option.

Save it for when you are on a run!

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