My qualms with sugar-free sports drinks

July 31, 2015

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Most people understand that a sport drink is a beverage intended for athletes as a replenishment drink.  The goal is to replenish fluids, glycogen (carbs) and electrolytes – the things lost during exercise. 

For the average exerciser, water and normal eating are sufficient to replace these things since their workouts aren't long or intense enough to require a special drink.  [Is it going to hurt you to drink it even if you didn't work out?  No.]

Athletes that do benefit from a sports drink are those who are losing a lot of fluid and electrolytes through sweat, and those who are burning through their glycogen stores with long workouts or endurance events. 

In those athletes for which Gatorade is intended (and beneficial), the regular "fully loaded" carbohydrate version is what makes sense.  Reduced-sugar Gatorade is somewhat of an oxymoron.  Part of the reason a person would need Gatorade is because they worked out long/hard enough to need to replace their carbohydrate stores. 

Sugar is carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source.  Hence, sugar in sports drinks is beneficial, so why remove it?  Our culture's current fear of sugar is ridiculous.  It's time to stop demonizing sugar (and any other specific food or food ingredient) because it's damaging our relationship with food. 


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