By Natalie Serafini, Editor-in-Chief
Sports are synonymous with health and vitality, right? All things athletic—whether food-, drink-, or training-related—must be primed to help these paragons of health do what they do best. But the food, drink, and training that help some be the ultimate athletes might prevent you from reaching your full potential.
Consider sports drinks. They provide energy before, after, and during a game, and return important electrolytes to the body. But, while sports drinks are generally fine for adult professional athletes, they aren’t so good for regular exercisers.
First off, studies have shown that consumption of sports drinks can affect oral health, as they contain higher levels of acid and sugars which dissolve the tooth enamel. MarketWired.com reports that “Leading sports drinks can contain 21 grams of sugar.” And according to a University of Iowa study, “sports drinks had the greatest erosion potential on both enamel and roots of teeth when compared to leading brands of energy drinks, soda, and apple juice.”
The reason sports drinks are so dangerously erosive is that, as CBN.com reports, “The acid in sports drinks erodes the teeth from the first sip until 45 minutes after the last sip.” That means that your teeth continue to be saturated in an erosive libation well after you’ve finished chugging back your electrolytes.
The fact that sports drinks tend to be so high in sugars is a serious health concern as well. As Patrick J. Skerrett of Harvard Health writes, these sports drinks, ideally used by and once marketed to endurance athletes, “have now trickled down to anyone who exercises.” This is of particular concern when it comes to kids, who might guzzle back a bottle of Gatorade while playing a soccer game: the bottle-sized serving likely contains ideal sugar portions for an adult professional athlete—not so much for a small child who’s occasionally on the field. Dr. Richard Hoffman also reports to CBN.com that people might end up gaining weight through caloric energy drinks which don’t get counterbalanced by enough exercise.
Skerrett points to the common misconception that one should drink when they aren’t thirsty in order to avoid becoming dehydrated; he reports that “sports drink makers spent a lot of money sponsoring less-than-rigorous research damning thirst as a guide to hydration and casting doubt on water as the beverage for staying hydrated.” He suggests simply drinking when you start to become thirsty—your body isn’t just telling you to drink for the hell of it.
So, what should you drink instead of sports drinks, or god forbid energy drinks? Plain old water is all you need to stay hydrated and ready to take part in the game, regardless of your age or athletic abilities. Dr. R. Brick Campbell also suggests that milk would be a good replacement for sports drinks, especially to help improve bone strength. As a final tip, even if you occasionally drink a sports drink, be sure to read the labels to know what you’re putting in your body.