Sports Drinks: Good or Bad?

Everyone from pro athletes to soccer moms question whether these beverages are a good choice. Should you be guzzling these drinks?

Everyone from pro athletes to soccer moms question whether these beverages are a good choice. Should you be guzzling these drinks?

Defining Sports Drinks

Absolutely not to be confused with potentially harmful energy drinks like Red Bull, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are mixture of water, sugar and electrolytes like sodium and potassium. What most folks don’t realize is that these types of beverages are specially designed for athletes, not couch potatoes.

Sports drinks average 50 calories and 3 teaspoons of sugar per cup. While that may seem like a lot, it’s about one third the amount found in soda.

Who Should Sip?

Serious athletes or those who have been exercising in hot and humid conditions can benefit from a sports drink. They’re a one-stop shop for three important things lost during activity – fluid and electrolytes from sweat and carbohydrate calories to fuel muscles.

The question then becomes, are those extra calories necessary? For athletes, the answer is yes . . . especially since most don’t come close to meeting their calorie needs. Taking in some liquid calories may also be a good idea for those that have trouble eating food before they exercise.

What About Weight Loss?

Those exercising to lose weight can still benefit from an occasional sports drinks (when exercising in the heat, for example) but should take into account those extra calories. Lower calorie “diet” sports drinks are sweetened artificially to cut calories. You still get fluid and electrolytes but since some artificial sweeteners can cause stomach upset, you’re better off diluting a regular one or just sticking with good old water.

Bottom Line: There’s a time and a place for sports drinks IF you exercise regularly.

Tell Us: What’s your take on sports drinks?

You Might Also Like:

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

Keep Reading

Next Up

Energy Drinks: Good or Bad?

Not to be confused with sports drinks, these bubbly bevvies are a dangerous mix of sugar, chemicals and stimulants. We won’t keep you in suspense – they’re no good!

Nutrition News: Fast Health, Fat-Fueled Sports and Another Reason to Drink Coffee

A study finds benefits in intermittent fasting; a high-fat diet may be good for athletes, but not everyone; and if you drink coffee, your arteries may be spick-and-span.

In the News: New Flick On Our Food Supply, Gourmet Lunches Off Trucks & Chocolate Milk's Better Than Sports Drink?

In this week’s round up: A controversial new food documentary, buying your meals off a truck, refueling post-workout with chocolate milk, losing weight by email and more.

Feeding Kids: Sports and Activities

Stumped on what to make for the team dinner or confused about the best snacks to bring to the game? Here are tips on the best way to fuel your little athletes.

Drink Floaters

You can't have a pool party without your floaters--liqueurs that float on the top of your drink! The Kitchen has 3 frozen cocktail floater ideas perfect for poolside sipping.

Burning Off High-Calorie Foods: Water Sports Edition

Find out what it takes to burn off high-calorie foods with water sports.

Sports Nutrition Tips for the School-Aged Athlete

Back to school also means back to sports. From elementary age to college-bound, these tips will help any athlete P.E.R.F.O.R.M their best.

Not a Sports Fan? Super Bowls of Soup

If you’re not a sports fan or prefer to stay away from deliciously decadent dishes, check out a few of Food Network's most super bowls of soup.

This Cannon Launches Tacos at Hungry Sports Fans

The University of Nebraska-Omaha’s new sports arena will bring fans a taco cannon. (Duck!)

On TV

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.