Everyone’s seen them and many of us have tasted them or consume them on a regular basis. They’re those neon-colored drinks that line the refrigerator cases at the local corner grocery or the shelves of the juice section of the supermarket…otherwise known as sports drinks.

These days, sports drinks are “in”, even for those who don’t necessarily spend lots of time working up a sweat. Experts, however, have debated the necessity of including these drinks in one’s diet, especially for those who don’t exercise regularly.

The First Sports Drink

Sports drinks aren’t new, but the number of different ones marketed to the general public has increased greatly in the last decade. Just about everyone, however, is familiar with the first sports drink that arrived on the scene – that yellowish-green juice-type drink known as Gatorade®.

Gatorade was developed in the mid-1960s at the request of a University of Florida football coach who was looking for something to help his players make it through a long, hot game without “wilting.” He enlisted the help of four university physicians, who determined that the fluids and electrolytes the players lost through sweat were not being replaced, and the large amounts of carbohydrates the players’ bodies used for energy were not being replenished. Simple water was not solving the problem, so the researchers concocted a drink that would specifically address these issues.

Sports Drinks vs. Water

When the average person is thirsty, they reach for a glass of water. This happens for a number of reasons. Water is a great thirst quencher, it’s inexpensive, and easy to come by. Our doctors have told us for decades that we should drink 6-8 glasses per day to enhance good health. However, researchers determine that for every 15-20 minutes one engages in exercise, they should drink about 4-6 ounces of water. For the typical person who exercises between 30 and 60 minutes two or three times per week, this is easy to achieve. But for professional athletes who exercise hard and long, this might not be the answer. Furthermore, fitness experts argue that because water is bland, most people don’t drink as much as they should during strenuous exercise.

Sports drinks, on the other hand, tend to hydrate better merely because the good taste causes individuals to drink more. Today’s popular sport drinks, such as Powerade®, All Sport®, Power Surge®, and others, come in a plethora of colors and flavors, making them more attractive than plain old water. Sports drinks are also “in fashion”, so teens and others who are merely interested in drinking something trendy will reach for these drinks rather than something that would better meet their needs. Health clubs and other fitness facilities also tend to push these drinks to their customers, touting their energy-boosting, electrolyte-replacing qualities.

Who Needs Sports Drinks?

Controversy has arisen, however, as to just when a sports drink is necessary and who should be drinking them. Indeed, if you’re a professional football player who gives 400% for 3 hours on the football field, a drink like Gatorade is exactly what you need to keep the chemicals in your body balanced. If you’re a marathon runner, these same drinks will help you make it through 26.2 miles.

But what if you’re just a casual exerciser? What can sports drinks do for you? While many experts believe that you’ll nevertheless benefit from such beverages, others believe that choosing them over water has its definite drawbacks.

Most sports drinks contain only a minute amount of the essential nutrients a body needs each day, so unless you need the beverage to boost carbs or replace electrolytes, chances are that sports drinks really provide no distinct advantages for the average person. As a matter of fact, some argue that those who consume these drinks actually consume lots of unnecessary calories and plenty of excess sugar. Nutritionists suggest that if you enjoy drinking sports drinks, you should eliminate the extra calories from some other portion of your diet.

To Drink or Not to Drink

For the average person, the decision as to whether to continue enjoying sports drinks comes down to personal preference. If you enjoy the taste, drinking these is no different than drinking a soda. If you’re not a professional athlete, just be sure to use them in moderation.

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