January 29, 2009

Gatorade - Considerations

In his recent posting about the difference between Gatorade and PowerAde, Brandon Hansen showcased the great revelation that so few of us have discovered – Powerade rocks in comparison to Gatorade. Tastes great and quenches a mean thirst! Having established that, there are a few things that I feel it is my duty to bring to light (this being a sporting blog, after all).

For years (most of us could say our entire lives), we’ve seen, heard, and even tasted that popular sport drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are a quality drink for the serious athlete. We all know the story about how the University of Florida invented Gatorade and how it worked such wonders for the football team. Peyton Manning and Michael Jordan made it their “drink of choice.” Practically any major sporting event boasts sponsorship from Gatorade – it’s the most popular sporting drink out there, and in terms of revenue, nothing can compare (one of the reasons it can sponsor everything). So many flavors, so much diversity.

To a degree, the stuff really does work. You see, the purpose of these sporting drinks is to replenish electrolytes in the body lost during physical exercise. From this front, Gatorade and Powerade succeed. However, considering that these drinks are marketed, at least in part, to major sporting events – events that require intense physical exertion – we owe it to ourselves to look at a fuller picture. The truth is, there are, in fact, a few things that go against these popular sporting drinks.

First, one must consider the amount of sugars that the body needs in a given time during athletic activity. Let’s say that Joe the Bike Rider needs x amount of sugars in addition to x amount of electrolytes in his sporting drink in order to successfully continue his workout. Water has neither sugars nor electrolytes, so obviously a second source is needed. You may think that Gatorade would be the right choice – however, while Gatorade may be able to replenish the x amount of electrolytes, it also has two and three times the amount of simple sugars the body can digest. What does this mean? Well, since the body can only digest a certain amount of sugars in a given period of time, that athlete will have to settle with extra (and unneeded) sugars sitting in his stomache – this is a hindrance as it can slow said athlete down.

So what can one do to fix this problem? The simple solution for many is to simply drink more water to dilute the sugars. That may dilute the sugars, but it’s also diluting the electrolytes, thus defeating the purpose of the drink being an actual sporting drink. Plus, the athlete has to be careful how much water they drink, because water intoxication is a real and deadly thing. Taking all this into account, we haven’t even discussed the role that the artificial colorings play! These reasons, then, show us that the “serious” athlete, or the athlete that hopes to play to their best, would be better off drinking something other than Gatorade.

Bear in mind that I am not trying to criticize Gatorade. It is good stuff and I enjoy sipping on it when I’m thirsty. It just isn’t my first choice when I decide to go exercise. What options does one have, then? Serious athletes should find a supplement they can add to regular water that has the proper amount of electrolytes, low simple sugars, no artificial flavorings or colors, and still has some flavor. My personal preference is Hammer Nutrition, a company out of Whitefish, Montana (haha Brandon!) that offers great tasting products that have the proper balance we are looking for.

So when does Gatorade come in the factor? Well, as the late-but-great comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “you can just be a thirsty dude” to enjoy it. That said, who wants to go for a bike ride now?

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