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Sports Drinks vs. Water: Which Is Better?

Doctorpedia Editorial Team Doctorpedia Editorial Team April 6, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are marketed toward athletes of all ages, promising to rehydrate you after a workout, pump your body full of electrolytes, and improve your performance. Many athletes swear by such drinks. But why are sports drinks so popular, and what makes them different from regular water?

 

For starters, sports drinks usually contain electrolytes; these are minerals that ensure your body functions properly. In addition, they also often contain amino acids, which help to rebuild your muscles. During a workout, your body’s electrolyte supply is often diminished–you lose electrolytes through your sweat–so replenishing them is important. Sports drinks also are a good source of carbohydrates due to their high sugar content, which works to replenish energy. Finally, the main ingredient in these drinks is, of course, water–which is essential, especially after exercise.

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So far, so good, right? You may be thinking that everything listed above is completely necessary for a good workout, so you might as well pick up a 12-pack of Gatorade the next time you’re at the store. But you should ask yourself the following: are you an athlete who exercises frequently at high volumes? Or are you trying to lose some weight by jogging a few times a week?

 

If you’re trying to lose weight, Gatorade and similar drinks should probably not be on your shopping list for one key reason: their sugar content. One 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 34 grams of sugar, 36 grams of carbs, and almost 150 calories. Why put so much effort into losing weight when you’re just going to undo your efforts at the end of your workout? If this is you, stick with water–it should be all you need after a good workout.

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But if you happen to be a dedicated athlete, then sports drinks can indeed be beneficial after a high intense workout, and the sugar content is less of a concern as it will burn off more quickly. Additionally, if you’re trying to gain weight, you can drink Gatorade as a replacement for water after a workout.

 

And what about for kids? Many parents take sports drinks to their kids’ soccer or basketball games, for example. Well, the rules are the same. If they’re performing vigorous physical activity, such as biking, running, or team sports, sports drinks may be a good option–although their sugar content is still a concern. But if your kids are just the type to play some sports now and again, it’s better to stick with water for the reasons listed above. 

 

So, what’s the verdict? If you’re a pro athlete, aren’t concerned with high sugar content, or just love the taste of energy drinks–go for it. But if you’re a regular Joe or Jane who just works out every so often and isn’t looking to gain weight, our good friend H20 is the best way to keep hydrated.

References

 

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