What Are You Drinking?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 11, 2010

The scene is all too familiar. An athlete is tired, sweating and gasping for air reaches for something to quench his thirst or to get some boost of energy.

Now the big question is, “What to drink?”

The sports market is flooded with different drinks, each claiming to give the athlete what they need and more to compete or get an edge. The new 5-hour energy drinks proclaim to hydrate or replenish lost electrolytes and other vitamins and nutrients.

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David Coburn, a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist, has been working with athletes through Ironton Physical Therapy and Preferred Fitness for 11 years. Since Preferred Fitness sells sports drinks, Coburn knows first-hand what drinks are the best and worst for athletes.

“As a trainer, it’s not what tastes good but what’s good for the system,” said Coburn.

Water is the best drink. A person needs to drink 4-to-6 ounces of water for every 15-to-20 minutes of exercise. Drinking plain water can cause bloating and suppress thirst, thus cutting off the needed intake.

Sports drinks don’t hydrate as well as water, but people tend to ingest sports drinks in greater volume, thus leading to better hydration.

Coburn said there is a problem with a lot of the sports drinks.

“All these drinks are basically the same thing. It’s a high content of sugar and caffeine. It gives you a high but it last a short time, no more than 30 minutes,” said Coburn.

Two drinks that are being heavily marketed are “5-Hour Energy” and “Red Bull.” There are many copy cat drinks and Coburn said all come with a dangerous risk.

“Drinks like Red Bull are something you find kids using to cram for a college final,” said Coburn. “It increases your heart rate and it’s already high because you’re getting ready to play a game and you’re doing something active. Something is going to give. The heart can only take so much.”

Athletes should not drink carbonated drinks or soda pop. The acids not only damage the teeth, but they may weaken the bones.

Soft drinks aren’t a bad choice for hydration and they do give a quick energy boost, but they are void of any nutritional content and they slow water absorption.

“Muscles are 75 percent water, not Gatorade or Powerade. But people will drink them for the water,” said Coburn.

Coffee and tea are an enemy to hydration. Even though they are fluids, both drinks act as diuretics, meaning they pull more water out of the bloodstream. And don’t add milk or sugar because they reduce the rate of water absorption even further.

Still, Coburn said coffee and tea are not a bad source of fluids after a workout or later in the day.

“The three things I recommend are, one, obviously, water. The other two are tea and coffee,” said Coburn. “I don’t mean drink three pots of coffee, but one or two cups a day are okay. Coffee and tea have caffeine but it’s natural.”

And forget alcoholic beverages. Maybe as a fan you like a beer with your pizza after the game, but alcohol dehydrates the body.

The main ingredients for sports drinks are glucose or sugar, caffeine and phenylamine.

Electrolytes serve three main functions in the body. Many are essential minerals, some control osmosis of water between body compartments — the transfer of fluids from a saturated area to a needed area — and they help maintain the acid-base balance required for normal cellular activities.

Check the ingredients of the drink. The additive propylene glycol is added to food and skin products to maintain texture and moisture, but it has been reported to induce seizure in epileptics and cardio-respiratory arrest.

Other additives that can be harmful are artificial colors. Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 6 are commonly used in sports drinks. Such dyes create a virus that has caused death to animals. Carmine Dye, used in foods, cola drinks and cosmetics, can also be harmful.

An additive becoming more popular in sports drinks is Acesulfame K. It has been shown to cause cancer in animals.

There is also aspartame, a popular sugar substitute. It has detrimental effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain and often causes headaches. Other symptoms are joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, cramps, vertigo and dizziness.

An additional additive not recommended is sucralose.

“All these monster-size drinks are carbonated drinks with different flavors,” said Coburn.

“Gatorade and Powerade are gimmick drinks. It makes you more thirsty. Diet drinks have aspartame. It’s a sweetener that’s not sugar and it’s better for you if you’re trying to lose calories, but aspartame can affect nerve endings.”

Popular Sports Drinks

All Sport: 24 fluid ounces. Main ingredients: water, high-fructose corn syrup. 70 calories, 19 grams of sugar,1 gram of other carbohydrates, 55 milligrams of sodium, 50 mg of potassium, and 10 percent of thiamine, niacin, vitamin B-12 and pantothenic acid. Fruity and slightly sweet. Like something you would find at a Kool-Aid stand.

Gatorade: 20 fluid ounces. Main ingredients: Water, sucrose syrup nutrition. 60 calories, 14 grams of sugar, 0 grams of other carbohydrataes, 110 mg of sodium, 30 mg of potassium, no other vitamins and minerals. Thin fruit taste, somewhat sour and a slight bitter aftertaste.

Powerade: 32 fluid ounces. Main ingredients: water and high-fructose corn syrup, natural flavors of kiwi, melon, and pineapple nutrition. 70 calories, 15 grams of sugar, 4 grams of other carbohydrates, 55 grams of sodium, 30 mg of potassium. Similar to a watered down Hawaiian Punch drink. Slightly tart and fruity taste.

Extreme Ripped Force: 18 fluid ounce. Main ingredients: Water, maltodextrin, crystalline fructose, natural and artificial flavors, extra caffeine. 100 calories, 12 grams of sugar, 12 grams of other carbohydrates, 30 mg of sodium, 180 mg of potassium, 98 percent niacin, 200 percent chromium. Tastes like a generic soda without carbonation.

Recharge: 32 fluid ounces. Main ingredients: water, concentrated fruit juices, natural flavors. 70 calories, 17 grams of sugar, 1 gram of other carbohydrates, 25 mg of sodium, 100 mg of potassium, no significant amounts of other vitamins or minerals. Fruit flavors are better than other drinks, but it is sour and has a distinct, sharp, biting smell.