What’s Really in Those Sport Drinks?

By October 20, 2015 Portfolio No Comments

(Originally written for and posted @ www.theingredientguru.com)


I’m going to be blunt. Under no circumstances would I recommend commercial sport drinks. Period.

Well, maybe if you are dehydrated (literally) and no other liquid exists for miles. You get my point.

Commercial sport drinks such as Gatorade and Vitamin Water are nothing but liquid sugar and chemical additives. The cons far outweigh any benefit.

Most young children simply need water. Teenage and adult athletes may need extra support, but there are much healthier alternatives. And I guarantee professional athletes are not drinking Gatorade despite the advertisements you see on TV.

So what’s in them that make them so bad?

Let’s explore the ingredients in Gatorade to find out:


Water: Good!

Sugar: And lots of it! An entire 16-ounce bottle contains a little more than 13 teaspoons of sugar. Isn’t it counterproductive to encourage our kids to play sports to be healthy, but then load them up with sugar after the game?

Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the primary source of added sugars in the standard American diet. And several studies have linked SSBs to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease [1].

Dextrose: Just another form of sugar.

Citric Acid: A flavoring and a preservative. It may seem harmless because it is naturally found in fruit, but the citric acid found in foods and beverages is chemically produced from black mold secretions.

Natural Flavor: Don’t let the name fool you. The “fruit punch” does not get its flavor from real fruit. These are flavors made in a laboratory. And no one really knows how or what is used to make them.

Salt: Sea salt would be better because it actually contains electrolytes (also known as minerals).

Sodium Citrate: Chemically processed food additive used to regulate acidity.

Monopotassium Phosphate: A common food additive as well as a fertilizer and fungicide. No joke!

Modified Food Starch: Another chemically processed food stabilizer.

Red 40: Artificial dyes are linked to behavior disorders and hyperactivity in children [2]. Some kids are more sensitive than others. For those that are sensitive, it can be disastrous for them and their families. These dyes are made from petroleum and coal tar and are banned in several other countries.

Glycerol Ester of Rosin: A food additive designed to keep oils suspended or evenly mixed in water. It is produced from pine tree wood rosin using a long list of chemicals.

Caramel Color: Just another artificial coloring additive. But who’s counting?

Do these ingredients look like something we should be giving our young athletes or drinking after a healthy dose of physical activity?

And you’ll be disappointed to know “zero-calorie” sport drinks typically contain the exact same ingredients. But instead of sugar, they use artificial sweeteners. While many turn to artificial sweeteners to consume fewer calories, studies have actually linked them to weight gain [3].

There are more “natural” brand sport drinks on the market today, but they’re mostly made of concentrated fruit juice (another form of liquid sugar). And they still have a few unnecessary additives. Why spend your money when water is much healthier and cheaper?

From an environmental perspective, we’d also use much less plastic if every team player brought a reusable water bottle filled from home.

While one sport drink won’t cause permanent harm, drinking them routinely is another story.

Truly Healthy Alternatives to Sport Drinks

When you or your children truly need a source of electrolytes after an intense or prolonged period of physical activity, simply

  • make your own drink by combining water, lemon, raw honey and sea salt
  • drink pure coconut water
  • add a trace mineral liquid supplement, such as LyteShow, to your water

But be sure to read ingredient labels on any and all commercial alternatives you choose :)

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