Do You Really Need a Sports Drink?

Sports DrinksWe have long been told that the athlete within us all needs athletic performance enhancers. But if your inner athlete spends most of the day at your desk, that might not be the case. So before you lace up for your next workout…or burn a hole in your wallet on ‘sport-enhancing’ products, read on!

Electrolyte Requirements

Sports drink companies would have you believe that replenishing electrolytes is an essential component of any workout. However, unless you’re in serious training for a long distance race or sport competition, electrolyte replacement is usually unnecessary. In fact, the general rule of thumb is unless you are exercising for more than one hour in the heat, plain old water should suffice.[i] And if you think that your electrolyte drink is a harmless treat, it might be time to rethink that drink! Most sports drinks are loaded with sugar as well as artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, so you’re better off forgoing them all together.[ii] If you are in athletic training and do require an electrolyte drink, we recommending making your own. Here’s a simple recipe compliments of TV show host and MD, Dr. OZ:

1 liter of water
1 tsp of baking soda
2 tbsp of agave nectar
½ tbsp of sea salt

Combine the 4 ingredients in a water bottle, shake it up and you’re good to go.[iii] Want a more convenient option? Try nature’s sports drink — unsweetened coconut water. Coconut water contains electrolytes and 5 times the amount of potassium as Gatorade and PowerAde, which is beneficial because potassium helps prevent and reduce muscle cramps. Coconut water also contains carbohydrates to help fuel your workouts and it is has the added bonus of supplying you with beneficial antioxidants.[iv] Another option is to hydrate with water and replenish electrolytes with a banana or dates.

Hydration Requirements

One performance requirement shared by both athletes and your average exerciser is a need for hydration. How much you weigh, how hot the temperature is, your level of fitness and the intensity of exercise will all play a role in determining your hydration needs.For the average exerciser, drinking about 17 (2 cups) ounces of water 1-2 hours before a high intensity workout, as well as small amounts of water at regular intervals throughout the workout, and  at least 8 ounces (1 cup) more post workout, ought to do it.  If you’re an athlete, or want a more precise guide for your hydration requirements try weighing yourself before and after a workout and for every pound you lost post-workout, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.[v]

Post Workout Recovery Products

Post-workout recovery drinks, bars and packs are another helpful supplement for the serious athlete that are likely wasted on the average workout. Most of these products are highly processed, contain unnecessary amounts of calories and similar to most electrolyte drinks they are loaded with artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners. The average workout does not significantly burn a lot of calories and most of us are getting the nutrients we need in our regular diets anyways. Even if you are partaking in long workout sessions, according to the Brown University Health Education Center, you will require the same amount of fruits, vegetables, dairy and fat as your non-athletic counterparts; just add 1 extra serving of protein and 3 extra servings of carbs on training days.[vi]


One final thing to keep in mind is that the average one hour cardio workout for a 160 lb. person will burn between 300 and 600 calories (depending on the intensity).[vii] When you think about the fact that 3500 calories must be burned in order to lose one pound and there are 310 calories in just 2 ounces of potato chips, you really haven’t ‘earned’ yourself any extra calories! [viii] So if your goal is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, don’t use your workout as an excuse to overindulge.

[i], [ii]