Sports Drinks: Hype or Help?

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Sports drinks: Hype or help?
Date updated: April 03, 2007
Content provided by Revolution Health Group

Energy drinks, sports drinks, recovery drinks…call them what you will, their names still suggest that they're designed for hard-working athletes. These days, however, it seems that everyone is tipping them back. But who really needs them?

"I recommend sports drinks for intense exercise that lasts for more than an hour," says Suzanne Farrell, R.D., a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "For anything under an hour, water is fine." That's because you don't need a 200-calorie burst of refreshment for a brief stint on the treadmill (remember, taking in more calories than you burn will eventually lead to weight gain), and your body isn't depleted of the electrolytes these drinks are designed to quickly replace.

If your routine frequently falls into the "intense exercise for more than an hour" category, and you're shopping for a sports drink, be sure to read the nutrition label. Make sure your sports drink contains potassium and sodium—the electrolytes your body sweats out. And you can skip the vitamin-enriched drinks. According to Farrell, you should be getting your vitamins and nutrients from food; sports drinks make a poor substitute.

And, finally, study your choices. Sports drinks are trendy and, as a result, lots of options—and imposters—have popped up. Make sure you're consuming a drink designed to fit your workout level—without excessive calories. And beware of "energy drinks" filled with nothing but sugar and caffeine—Red Bull, Full Throttle, Mountain Dew AMP and the like shouldn't be confused with sports drinks.

Reviewed by: Val Jones, M.D.
Date: March 10, 2007
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