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Watch What You Drink: How Healthy are Sports Drinks?

Whether it’s magazine ads, TV commercials or at every sporting event you go to, it’s easy to feel bombarded with suggestions as to what you should drink for hydration and recovery.  Whether you’re an athlete or not, are these drinks really a smart choice for our bodies? 

If you take the time to read the label and the actual contents, the answer should be “NO” for the majority of these drinks, despite the flashy ads, cool colors and promises of high performance.  Some may provide a quick burst of energy. Typically these drinks are loaded with sugars, stimulants and artificial flavors and colors.  Sugar free or low calorie options often contain artificial sweeteners, which is another additive you should avoid.

But what about coffee? Caffeine actually causes our body to lose water, so excessive amounts can be very detrimental, especially to athletes or people sweating while working out.  Early signs of dehydration are easy to spot such as thirst or a dry or sticky mouth, but can also include headache, cramps, and dizziness.  Urine color, although something many may not want to think about, can be an easy way to assess if someone is getting enough fluid.  Typically urine should be the color of lemonade. If it becomes darker, more like apple juice, it may be a clue that you are not getting enough fluid. 

Everyone is different, so the old “8 glasses of water per day” suggestion may not always apply.  If someone eats a lot of fruit and vegetables and does not sweat a lot during the day, he or she may need less.  Someone who works in the heat or an athlete who sweats during 3 hours of daily training may need more. 

If a little “pick me up” is really needed, put a hold on the sugary sports drinks and coffee beverages loaded with artificial ingredients. Black coffee or green tea are much safer options, and will provide additional health benefits as well.  

Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy with OrthoCarolina Matthews and with D1 Sports. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs.  He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams. 

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