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.

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.

Drinks by the Numbers

For this year’s December issue, Food Network Magazine took the guesswork out of figuring out how much alcohol to buy for your holiday soiree.

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.

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.

In The Know: Good Cookin' Good Lookin'

Take a cue from these busy chefs and search your kitchen for makeshift beauty products.

Why You Should Drink Port

In world of Unicorn Frappuccinos, port is like grandpa yelling at the grandkids to put their phones down and have some darn respect.

Have Drinks with Ina (Kind Of)

Her go-to sips and bites revealed.