Exercise and sports drinks have gone hand-in-hand for quite some time. You go for a jog, play a game of kickball or another outdoor workout, and then you reach into a cooler filled to the brim with ice-cold sports drinks. As you twist the cap off the neon-colored drink, you know that instant refreshment is just moments away. You sip, sigh, and with replenished energy, you dive back into the action. At least, that’s what the commercials show. But is it really true, or would most people be better off opting for healthy alternatives to sports drinks?
Other Ways to Hydrate Your Body
The companies making these ads are profiting from the image, shipping their drinks around the country with the 12 million trucks, rail cars, and locomotives in the nation’s transportation network. With most professional sports featuring large vats of these electrolyte-filled drinks as well, it’s no surprise that the average person believes the best way to hydrate after physical activity is by chugging a sports drink.
In reality, the majority of people would be much better off hydrating and replenishing their electrolytes through healthy alternatives to sports drinks. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, were made for the professional athletes you see on television. During their intense workouts and games, these athletes need the drinks’ extra calories, sugars, and salts to boost their performance and endurance.
Research shows that you only start depleting your electrolyte and glycogen levels after over an hour of intensive training. Even an adult who completes seven hours of physical activity per week, which is thought to result in a longer life expectancy, likely isn’t doing the hardcore activity that significantly lowers electrolyte levels. As sports drinks have about 100 calories per every 16 ounces, the average person who hits the gym for an hour or goes for a three-mile run would be negating their workout by gulping one down.
4 Healthy Alternatives To Sports Drinks
If you’re looking to hydrate after your morning spin class, sticking to plain old water is your best bet. You’ll avoid the unnecessary calories and sugars. However, even people who do engage in intense physical training can opt for healthier options that don’t come with a long list of strange additives. Here are 4 healthy alternatives to sports drinks:
1. Chocolate milk
Yep, you read that correctly, chocolate milk! According to Natalie Rizzo, a registered dietician in New York City, chocolate milk is a great alternative to sports drinks. This is due to chocolate milk’s 3-to-1 ratio of carbs-to-protein, which is important in restoring the body’s level of carbohydrates and repairing tired muscles. Rizzo also says that research suggests that drinking a fat-free version of this childhood favorite hydrates and replenishes electrolytes better than a sports drink.
Bananas are another of our healthy alternatives to health drinks. While it is not a beverage, this fruit is a favorite for professional and amateur athletes alike. Not only will eating a banana after a workout helps you reach the recommended five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but it will also give you a good dose of potassium. As potassium is an electrolyte you lose during excessive sweating, bananas will give you the boost you need. Bananas also provide antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin B, which are minerals beneficial in the long-term that you can’t find in sugary sports drinks.
3. Coconut Water
Coconut water has become very popular in health-conscious communities over recent years. This natural beverage is filled with antioxidants, natural enzymes, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, potassium, and sodium. All of these minerals work to create balance in the body and re-hydrate it. When purchasing coconut water, just be sure to check the ingredients list and nutrition label. Some brands may add different juices and flavors, requiring mystery ingredients that negate its naturally healthy properties.
4. Homemade sports drink
You may like the fact that the common sports drink provides sodium and other electrolytes. However, you probably don’t love all of its artificial ingredients. After all, it’s partially the fault of these artificial additives that sports drinks can result in a 1.5% tooth enamel loss. By making your own sports drink, you’ll skip the additives and know exactly what is going in your body. Simply mix coconut water, honey, and sea salt together. For a citrus flavor, add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or 100% orange juice. Citrus foods also offer those electrolytes that so many people rely on sports drinks for.
Whether you’re looking for just the right drink to be your new gym buddy or you want a refreshing option to send with the little ones to soccer practice, you don’t need to turn to typical sports drinks. Try out one of these healthy alternatives to sports drinks this summer. You just may be surprised at the difference it makes in how you look and, even more importantly, how you feel. If you absolutely cannot do without a sports drink, opt for a healthier sports drink version instead.