It’s hard to imagine a world without so-called “sports drinks”, isn’t it? Whether it’s the million-dollar ads in every commercial break, suburbanites sipping from their hydration packs on the trail lest the one mile hike bests them, or the guy in the supermarket inexplicably loading his cart with enough Gatorade to sink an ocean liner, it’s clear the $5.79-billion-dollar sports drink industry—the high fructose corn syrup complex—isn’t going anywhere.

Maybe it should. “But pro athletes use sports drinks!” Perhaps some do, but it’s a well-known fact in the sports performance world that football players water down their sports drinks because the high sugar content sometimes causes stomach cramps.

Another argument? “Sports drinks are backed by science.” Really? Many of the studies claiming to show the effectiveness of sports drinks are in fact funded by the very companies whose products they’re supposed to be ‘independently” testing.


Here are a 3 other reasons to ditch sports drinks:

They May be Sugary, But The Side Effects Aren’t Sweet

Sugary sports drinks get their sweetness from high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to a wide range of health problems, from obesity to heart disease. The low calorie versions don’t threaten your waistline, but the artificial sweeteners they contain can cause diarrhea, hormone irregularities and many other issues. Plus, the sweetness tricks your body into releasing too much insulin, which can compromise performance and up your diabetes risk.

“Artificial” Is the Name of the Game

If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it’s a good rule of thumb not to digest it. So the ingredients list on most sports drinks alone should give cause for concern. Even those things that you can pronounce are made in a lab and, therefore, should be avoided. Monopotassium/potassium phosphate is used in fertilizer (quench your thirst now?) calcium chloride can cause ulcers, and brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is a flame retardant used on furniture. And the artificial colors that give your drink that weird radioactive glow? They’re linked to ADHD, allergies and more.


The Vitamins in them are Made with Petroleum and Formaldehyde

Downing a liquid enhanced with vitamins has got to be good for you, right? Not necessarily. Most sports drinks that include vitamins source them from the cheapest varieties you can buy, many of which are derived from gasoline (yeah, you read that correctly) and processed with harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. Get your vitamins from fruits, vegetables and, in the case of vitamin D, sunlight. If you need a top up, look for a product that has organic vitamins instead of the petroleum-based kind.



So what should you drink instead to ensure adequate hydration? I posed the question to Dr. Stacy Sims, an adjunct research scientist at Stanford University. Sims’s company, OSMO Nutrition, does make hydration formulas for endurance athletes (that don’t contain the junk listed above), but she told us that for most athletes, there’s a very simple hydration solution: “If you drink water with a pinch of salt and a dash of maple syrup [1/16th tsp salt and 1 tsp maple syrup per 20oz water] during training or competition you’ll be hydrating, and won’t need a typical sports drink,” Sims said. “For events lasting less than 90 minutes, keep sipping the water with a bit of salt. For anything longer – up to 3 hours – that needs a bit of extra fueling, pop a couple of glucose tabs to boost blood sugar levels. And when you’re done, eat watery fruits and vegetables with a little salt sprinkled on top to rehydrate.”

Stop bashing your wallet, and your health, with Frankenfood sports drinks, and give good, ol’ fashioned water, plus salt and maple syrup, a try.



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