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The Health Benefits of Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are not for the leisure set. They are specifically designed for athletes working out or playing sports at a high intensity for at least one hour. For years, I put a sports drink in my kid’s lunch box where water, milk or juice would have been a better choice.

Sports drinks are designed to hydrate and refuel. They contain water, sugar, sodium and potassium which are electrolytes. Electrolytes help regulate the body’s fluid. The sugar is a carbohydrate to help with the fueling part. This should be the drink of choice only when there is vigorous physical activity.

Ironically, the vast majority of people who drink sports drinks are non-athletes. Most sports drinks have less sugar than soda but, nonetheless, a 12 ounce bottle has 21 grams of the sweet stuff. For non-athletes, extra sugar may lead to weight gain. It’s important to note that many of these drinks have food dye like Red No. 40, Blue No. 1 and Yellow No. 5. These dyes have been known to increase hyperactivity in some children.

The health benefits of sports drinks really come into play when an athlete has been exercising at a high level in the the heat and humidity. Good examples of the right time are a football game in early fall, soccer, cross country or tennis on a sunny day. When you work hard and your heart gets a work out in hot conditions, you have a green light. Resources become depleted and these drinks will boost the body.

The key here is to stay hydrated, many times water works best. This year, I will be looking for alternatives to put in the lunchbox. If you are in the same boat, do your research to see when and where the right time is for your athlete to have a sports drink.