Why Sports Drinks Are Not Healthy Or Necessary

Publish date:

By now most of us know that soda is bad for us, so a lot of soda lovers are turning to Gatorade and other sports drinks to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, what a lot of us don’t know is that sports drinks aren't much better for us and should be avoided by just about everyone who isn’t a professional athlete, triathlete, or marathoner.

I am a University of Florida alum and lifetime Gator fan, but I have to write this post to discourage you and your family, especially your children, from regularly consuming drinks like Gatorade.

Take a look at the ingredients in the lemon-lime Gatorade (my favorite flavor before I knew better):

Water, sugar, dextrose, citric acid, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, glycerol ester of rosin, natural flavor, yellow 5.

Glycerol ester of rosin is added as an emulsifier. Maybe it’s safe, maybe it’s not. The European Food Safety Authority is leaning towards the latter.

Yellow 5, like other artificial food colorings and synthetic dyes, is banned in some European countries because of its possible link to cancer and hyperactivity in children.

Gum Arabic is quite the versatile additive – it’s used as a stabilizer in candies, watercolor paint, shoe polish, cosmetics, Gatorade, and more. Hmm.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "the term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Gatorade’s big draw is its electrolytes, and it does have electrolytes, but you have to dig through a pile of junk before finding them in the ingredient list. Sugar and dextrose are responsible for the 21 grams of added sugar per 12 ounce serving. The World Health Organization recommends we ingest no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day because consuming too much added sugar leads to insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, poor gut health, obesity, fatty liver, and other harmful outcomes. By the way, the G2 just replaces a lot of the sugar with artificial sweeteners. Ick.

A recent study reported that 1 in 5 parents believed that sports drinks are “good, healthy drinks for children.” I doubt that 1 in 5 parents believe that “yellow 5” and “glycerol ester of rosin” are “good, healthy” ingredients for their kids.

Yet, why would parents or anyone else have reason to believe that Gatorade, the ultimate “thirst quencher” is anything but healthy?

In 2015 Gatorade spent nearly 130 million dollars in advertising, including reviving their iconic “Be Like Mike” commercial with Michael Jordan. I doubt MJ is guzzling Gatorade these days, and neither should you.

Instead, opt for water, fruit-infused water, flavored seltzer (if you can tolerate the carbonation) or herbal tea plus a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you have a condition (e.g. ostomy) that frequently dehydrates you then talk to your nutritionist or doctor about making your own oral rehydration solution with real, recognizable ingredients.

glass of water with strawberries

Fruit infused water is refreshing and tasty.