Sports Drinks - Fact Or Fiction!

These miracle drinks that 'replenish electrolytes, hydrate the body, quench thirst, quench the body' flood the sports market with bogus claims and false advertising.

Is it in you? Or, more fitting, do you put this stuff in yourself? Welcome boys and girls to the wonderful gray, in-between world where sports marketing and healthy nutrition collide. These miracle drinks that "replenish electrolytes, hydrate the body, quench thirst, quench the body" flood the sports market with bogus claims and false advertising. Do not be shocked, as bodybuilders and weight lifters we have encountered our fare share of marketing gimmicks (i.e. "Gain 10 pounds of solid muscle in a week!").

"The Official Drink"

But no supplement company has basked in the reverential sun like Gatorade. As the official drink of the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, NASCAR and the National Football League, a generation of image conscious and athletically inclined young enthusiasts are gulping down gallons. Gatorade has what many of us do not - money. The millions of dollars that support these "medical" and "scientific" claims leave many with a complacent attitude.

However, no one drink can create an athletically superior environment that enables us to lift more, run faster or endure more pain. Only a complete diet that is eaten throughout the day will land us closer to our goals. Despite the marketing claims, these power drinks do offer bodybuilders something that is extremely important to gaining muscle, of this I will explain later. But for now, the facts must be stated!

Their Claims

Gatorade, Powerade, and AllSport all make similar claims, but vehemently state their individuality. Except for a simple sugar, a little potassium and sodium, these drinks are not the cure-all for pre or post-workout exhaustion. According to John Rizzotti, a chemist who authored an article titled What are in those Sports Drinks?, "a single 20 fl. oz. bottle of Gatorade contains water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, and monopotassium phosphate. Looking at the ingredients, a bottle of Gatorade is nothing but sugar water."

And he is indubitably correct in his statement. But, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute states that…wait a minute, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, please! I'm not even going to try to counter the above statement with factual Gatorade science.

I promised to give you the facts, so I shall. There truly is a Gatorade Sports Science Institute. It is, more or less, a conglomeration of college and university professors proficient in sport science. As a result, for a nice, hefty sums of "grant" dollars, their "research" is devoted to professing the wonders of Gatorade.


Now, you might be thinking, but what about the electrolytes!? Patience young Jedi, for the truth shall be known. According to Nutritional Supplements & Performance Enhancers: Myths, Fads and Misperceptions, "the minerals sodium, potassium, and chlorine are collectively referred to as electrolytes.

They are dissolved in the intra (within) and extra (outside) cellular water as charged particles (ions) and are responsible for maintaining a proper electrical gradient across the cellular membrane - required for the proper functioning of each cell.

A normal diet contains these three minerals in excess, and the kidneys control the loss from the body. As a result there is no requirement for diet supplementation except in extreme conditions." Yes, electrolytes are important for the healthy cell functions.

Electrolytes maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Sodium (salt) and potassium are common deposits found in sweat. A couple of peanuts will better service your depleted electrolyte needs than a sugary sports drink.

Insulin & Glucagon

OK! So how can these sports drink be beneficial to the bodybuilders and weightlifters? By understanding the importance of Insulin and Glucagon, your muscle building capacity will soar to a new level. Insulin and glucagon are hormones secreted by the pancreas. Both hormones work synergistically to control a level of homeostasis within the body. Insulin and glucagon maintain and control blood sugar/glucose. After eating or a strenuous workout, blood sugar/glucose is high.

Consequently, insulin is released to transport the blood sugar/glucose out of the bloodstream and into muscle tissue and fat cells. As blood sugar/glucose homogenizes off to suitable levels, insulin secretion is reduced. The absorption of insulin by the muscles and fat cells reduces the need for further insulin secretion. Conversely, low insulin levels assist in protein degradation. The trick is to consume high glycemic foods at insulin sensitive times to dramatically facilitate the uptake of glucose and amino acids into the muscle cells.

Many feel that there are only two insulin sensitive times throughout the day. However, a third time has been discovered. The moment you wake up in the morning, right before a workout and after a workout are all insulin sensitive times. HENCE! Consuming a Gatorade, Powerade or AllSport during these times greatly increase the chances that amino acids and other valuable muscle building nutrients will be absorbed into the muscle cells. Phew!

Never take anything for its face value or purported claim. Investigate and read the label as to what is really in the drink or food you are consuming. After all, the supplement you could be ingesting might only be a sugar pill. Or, the sports drink that claims to boost energy, quench thirst and make you millions like your favorite athlete may only be sugar water…oh wait, it is. Knowing when you drink these sports drinks may be beneficial to the bodybuilder, though. Understand your science and myths.