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Water or Gatorade?

This is a bit of a rant, so I’ll apologize up front.

I can not even come close to guessing how many times someone has asked “Shouldn’t I be drinking Gatorade?”. It seems that all of the commercials have worked – people (not just athletes) drinking Gatorade with meals, at work, before bed… the list goes on and on. So let’s get some things straight…

1. Gatorade is intended to replace water and electrolytes in HARD training lasting OVER 1 HOUR, and/or in HIGH HEAT training lasting more than 30 minutes. It’s proven – Gatorade can help improve hydration and hence performance… UNDER THESE CONDITIONS!

2. Gatorade is not “magic”. It is water with sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (another type of sugar), Sodium (salt), Potassium, and flavoring. Gatorade is mixed as a 6% carbohydrate solution to facilitate faster emptying from your stomach/gut to rehydrate you faster while providing fuel for working muscles. You could make your own similar drink with:

1 Liter of water
4 Tbsp. sugar (60 grams, equaling a 6% solution of carbohydrate)
_ teaspoon of table salt or 1 teaspoon of baking soda (Sodium)
_ teaspoon of “No Salt” (Potassium)
Crystal Light or Sugar-free Kool-Aide to taste

No magic added.

3. You may not need the extra calories. Training drinks (Gatorade) and recovery drinks (carbs + protein) are useful if you are in hard training, but on off days or easy days are simply extra calories. Generally speaking, you should be consuming non-calorie drinks most of the time – unless you are trying to gain weight. The extra calories that come from drinking Gatorade (or ANY calorie-containing drink) throughout the day may be adding to your waistline. Choose water or Green Tea most of the time.

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Basic hydration comes from a basic practice that people have been doing forever… drinking water! Simple, effective, and true. There are effective training drinks, such as Gatorade, on the market – and during times of intense or prolonged training and competition they may be helpful. There are, however, no magic bullets. Hard, consistent training matched with solid recovery (nutrition, hydration, and sleep) will always yield results. Know when to drink water and when to use a training drink, and you may end up saving your waistline and your wallet.

  • by John Coffman, Contributing Writer 

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