What do drinks like Gatorade aim to do?
We've seen their advertisements everywhere. Gatorade is a 'sports drink' designed to provide adequate hydration as well as replenishing the electrolytes lost from sweating.
What is an electrolyte exactly?
"It's in Brawndo, the thirst mutilator, right?"
To put simply, it is just a chemical that conducts an electrical current. How is this beneficial to us? The most commonly electrolytes used in sports drinks are Na+ (Sodium Ion) and K+ (Potassium ion), considering they are most generously lost during sweating. They are important because they help to maintain proper voltages throughout the cell membrane. This is important because our entire body relies on the proper ordinance of electrical charges whether it be a nerve impulse, muscle contractions, etc. Without proper electrolytes these voltages could be starved of their energy source causing problems within the body. It deals very heavily on the human body's biochemistry.
Gatorade and it's analogues never explicitly mention that their product is healthy in their advertisements. Perhaps it's our innate ideas that athletes are healthy, therefore the product they sponsor must be healthy too. However, I've seen athletes sponsored by fast food joints and soda companies. Very few things scream unhealthy louder than things like that.
Let's look at the nutrition facts of a Gatorade, shall we?
This is for a 32 fl oz size bottle of Gatorade. We can see that in one serving there are 14 grams of sugar. Sugar is scientifically known to dehydrate the cells in our body which means it dehydrates our bodies. This seems rather counter-intuitive. Make a drink claiming to hydrate yet load 14 grams of sugar into one serving of the drink. The only reason the drink has calories is due to its sugar content too. Even worse, the sugar isn't just sugar. It's high fructose corn syrup. I guess the only way people would drink it is if it had a sweet syrupy taste to it. Note how there are 110mg of Sodium and 30mg of potassium and 14g of total carbohydrates. This will come in handy for later parts of this post.
By now it should be obvious that over priced Gatorade bottles aren't exactly the most frugal option in drinks and hydration.
What to do then? Drink water. Drinking water is most hydrating experience you can get. "But what about my precious electrolytes. You said I needed them!!" Yes, they are still essential especially if you are being active and sweating. Here's a few ideas:
- There is 110mg of sodium in a serving of Gatorade. This isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things. Take a pinch of table salt and throw it into your water. The amount is so little that you probably won't notice it during your ice cold chug.
- How to make up for potassium? Eat half of a banana. Half of a medium banana should provide you with 200mg of potassium. You want to make sure your sodium and potassium levels are very similar, which is why eating an entire banana without making up for the sodium isn't recommended.
- But what about the carbs that are in Gatorade too? Eat a portion of a medium sized potato and forget the banana. A medium potato has nearly 400mg of potassium too along with plenty of complex carbohydrates that will fuel you when you need it.