It baffles me whenever I see people sipping on sports drinks at the gym. While they think they’re doing themselves a favor by assumingly providing themselves with more energy, the truth is, they’re doing themselves more harm, if anything.
First of all, the evidence in the literature suggests sports drink to be of use for any activity lasting >90 minutes. At the same time, sports drink may be of use for quite intense physical activity (i.e. endurance events such as marathons). Note that these studies were looking at competitive athletes, more so endurance and ultra-endurance athletes.
It is these individuals that require supplementing with sports drinks during their training sessions or races – not your average joe at the gym who’s exercising at an intensity or duration nowhere near as close as endurance athletes! From what I see at the gym, no one really needs a sports drink to fuel their workout. They’re simply not working as hard or long enough for the need of one.
Second, drinking something like Gatorade or Powerade during a workout will increase blood sugar levels during the workout, while also promoting the release of insulin. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, insulin inhibits the use of fat metabolism. So, if you sip a sports drink during your workout, you’re only allowing your body to continually use carbohydrates for energy – leaving fat untouched. Hence, for those looking to burn fat during a workout, drinking a sports drink is not the best idea!
Third, and from a body composition perspective, drinking a sports drink during a workout will also do you harm. If you’re trying to lose weight, why add extra calories, sugar and carbohydrates by consuming a sports drink? You can easily avoid the added calories, and more so, the sugars by sticking to water during your workout! A standard Gatorade bottle, for example, may contain 40 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of sugar. That’s a lot of carbohydrates and sugar and definitely more than you need to fuel your workout.
Bottom line is, recreational athletes, like you and I, do not need sports drinks. Even if it’s a low-calorie sports drink, you’re better off sticking to water. Regardless of how much of a gym junkie you are, believe me when I say your workout demands are nowhere near that for which you need to sip on a sports drink.