Guy Holding Gatorade

Here I was at the gym enjoying my 30 minutes of elliptical bliss when I noticed another gym user take a swig of his Gatorade. This scenario made me laugh because do you really need a sports drink only to run on a treadmill for half an hour? If he’s at the gym to lose weight or to get fit then burning calories matters and his logic doesn’t add up.

Doing some quick math, 30 minutes of cardio at the gym results in 300 calories being burned, so if you drink something like Gatorade you are adding 50 calories to your workout and are actually only burning off 250 calories. After my silent chuckle, it dawned on me – maybe he’s just trying to rehydrate and thinks that sports drinks are the official quenchmaster.

It was once thought that if physical activity lasted less than an hour, water was the best choice for fluid replacement. This is STILL true if you are NOT performing high-intensity stop-and-go sports, such as hockey, basketball, and sprint cycling. In other words, I’m still allowed to chuckle at this Gatorade lover. For athletes, not necessarily gym junkies, water can dilute blood, which can increase urine output and shut off thirst drive. Unfortunately, this scenario will lead to dehydration, which is a very serious issue for athletes. Again, this is for high-intensity athletes, not someone who spends 30 minutes three times a week on a cardio machine.

Ok athletes pay attention – when exercise extends beyond 60 minutes the use of sports drinks can offer several advantages over water. For one, the carbohydrates in sports drinks can enhance your performance, and second of all the electrolytes can help maintain blood volume, and enhance the absorption of water and carbohydrates from the intestines – in other words all good things.

Just in case this isn’t obvious please avoid alcoholic beverages, drinks that contain high amounts of caffeine, carbonated beverages, and drinks with a sugar content above 10%, such as soft drinks or fruit juices WHEN working out. I say when because I’ve heard that drinking that morning coffee can give you a better work out.

Personally, I’m going to stick to water but if I ever decide to run a marathon then I think I’ll grab a sports drink. In 2007 Gatorade introduced a low-cal version of their original sports drink called G2, which is great except that you are still guzzling 20 calories versus zero with water. Plus water is free!

Image courtesy of randomduck