Sport Drinks: An Unhealthy Choice

With soda consumption on the decline, many people are turning to sports drinks as their beverage of choice. Sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, are often marketed as healthy beverage options for people of all ages, but they have grown increasingly popular with children in recent years. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see people reaching for sports drinks, even when they’ve done no exercise! So how good are sports drinks for you really?

Sports drinks are designed to replenish water, carbohydrates, and sugars lost through vigorous exercise. Gatorade, one of the first sports drinks, was first developed by scientists at the University of Florida to refuel football players, who were practicing in heavy gear in Florida’s sun and humidity for hours each day. For them, sports drinks were necessary to prevent dehydration from the heat and intense exercise. But how many of us average Americans perform that kind of exercise on a daily basis to justify drinking sports drinks every day? That’s right, few of us actually do!

The main concern with consuming sports drinks every day is that they are packed with sugar. Although they’re marketed as healthy options, they often contain nearly as much sugar as sodas do. For example, one 12oz serving of orange Gatorade contains 80 calories and 20 grams of sugar!1 (Keep in mind that the average bottle contains 2.5 servings, meaning that a single bottle of Gatorade contains 200 calories and 50 grams of sugar.)

The American Heart Association recommends that adult women limit their added sugar intake to 100 calories per day and adult men 150 calories per day.2 That means that downing an entire bottle of sports drink will by far exceed your recommended sugar for the day.

So should you or your child be consuming sports drinks every day? Probably not! A good rule of thumb is that adults performing less than an hour of vigorous exercise should stick to rehydrating with water. As for kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that children consume sports drinks at all.3

So the next time your thirsty, remember to rehydrate water: it’s calorie- and sugar-free!

Lauren Wright

Lauren Wright works with both the HYPE Project and Let’s Go! SC. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Human Nutrition at Winthrop University. Previously, she earned her BA in Political Science at the University of Florida and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda.

  • Sport Drinks: An Unhealthy Choice