Many overestimate the importance of sports drinks, when drinking water is just as effective. The drinks are not a panacea or a substitute for good nutrition and hydration and cannot make up for proper training. Overuse is cautioned.

Exercise Sports Drinks Use in Canada

  • Canadians consume $450M in Sports Drinks annually.
  • Sports drinks are only recommended for those exercising at high intensity for more than ninety minutes.
    • According to Greg Wells, eighty-five percent of Canadians don’t get enough physical activity anyways and only a small subset of those who do work out hard enough to need a sports drink.

Hydration Needs during Exercise

  • Athletes need water to keep their muscles working and blood circulating.
    • 2% dehydration can harm performance.
  • Adjust the amount of fluid for the size of the athlete and the conditions of the exercise (length, intensity, temperature, humidity):
    • Children do not sweat as much as older athletes.
    • Adolescents drink less water as part of their daily diet.
    • A guideline is about one ounce for every ten pounds.
    • Consider measuring fluid loss during a typical exercise session.
  • Hydrate up to two hours beforehand and sip during the activity.
  • Rehydrate within twenty minutes of the conclusion of the physical activity.

Sports Drinks Contents

  • a 591ml bottle (about 20 U.S. ounces) of Gatorade contains:
Component Value % of Daily Requirement
Calories 150 Not published (see below)
Sodium 250mg 11%
Potassium 65mg 2%
Carbohydrates 38g 13%
Sugar 35g Not published (see below)
  • It is recommended that an average person on a diet of two thousand calories daily consume between twenty and thirty-two grams of sugar.

Sugar Consumption

  • Canadians on average consume 110 grams of sugar daily:
    • Boys Aged 14-18 years: 172 grams (43 teaspoons)
    • Girls Agent 14-18 years: 125 grams
  • 35% of the sugar consumption comes from “Other” category, which includes soft drinks and sports drinks.
  • One in five Canadians aged 12-17 years old is overweight or obese.

Appropriate Use of Sports Drinks

  • Exercise must reach sufficient intensity and duration to deplete the body’s glucose stores and require the additional sugar in a sports drink.
  • Sports drinks are appropriate for exercising during hot and humid conditions and multiple practices and/or games in a single day.
  • If an athlete has not had a snack before activity or has gone more than four hours since eating, they may choose to consume a sports drink.

Appropriate Time for Sports Drinks

  • 60-90 minutes of activity: sports drinks are a practical choice because they prevent dehydration, hypoglycemia (low sugar) and hyponatremia (low sodium).
  • ≤60-90 minutes: sports drinks may be recommended for someone with a high sweat rate.
  • ≥60-90: an additional snack is required to replace carbohydrates.

Long-Term Athlete Development Concerns

  • The energy boost which may come from a drinking sports drink is from the sugar alone, not carbohydrates or protein which would help recovery.
  • When children consume a sports drink, it can lower the body’s pH level for up to twenty minutes.
    • A body’s pH level should be between 7.35 or 7.45. When the body is too acidic, it may suffer from low energy levels, aches and illnesses.
  • Excessive consumption of acidic sugary beverages can lead to dental erosion, tooth decay and abscesses or mouth infections.
    • Remember to brush teeth during training camps and tournaments when frequently consuming snacks and sports drinks.

Homemade Sports Drinks

  • Athletes may consider making their own sports drinks in order to incorporate carbohydrates and protein without excess sugar or for budgetary reasons.
  • Homemade sports drinks should contact six to eight percent carbohydrates (60-80g/L) to replenish depleted glycogen stores.