By Tyler Murphy, BEd, CPT, and in need of a Sports Drink!

Do you remember the old Gatorade commercials featuring Michael Jordan running up and down the court, throwing down huge jams, and profusely sweating out the lime green color of Gatorade as he played. That was back in 1991, launching Gatorade into the company that it is today, even though it was invented back in 1965 by the medical staff at the University of Florida to aid their football team in proper hydration during the hot summer months when the team was training their two-a-days. There are now a number of competitors producing and selling sports drinks. The market has become more and more popular as the popularity of exercise and fitness has taken off.

The questions that need to be asked now, though, are whether or not a sports drink is necessary, when should it be used, and what ingredients should we be looking for in a sports drink.

Sports drinks provide fitness enthusiasts and athletes with a source of electrolytes and sodium that are lost during activity through sweat. According to Heidi Skolnik, M.S., CDN, FACSM, the sodium found in sports drinks helps the body hold onto water and helps fluid to get to the right places in the body, like muscles and blood. Sports drinks also come in a multitude of different flavors, making them more attractive and appetizing to consumers than tasteless water.

So then at what point is it necessary to switch from water to a sports drink like Gatorade? Experts recommend that people who workout at a moderate to high intensity for 60 minutes or more should add sports drinks into their diet to replace the electrolytes and sodium that they lose through sweat. Anything shorter than that time frame doesn’t require the excess electrolytes and sodium, so stick with the water.

With so many different brands of sports drinks out on the market these days, what are the optimal ingredients that we should look for in our choice of hydration? The ideal sports drink should have 14-20 grams of carbohydrates per 8 oz. serving. Those carbohydrates should come from glucose or sucrose. The ideal sports drink should also include 70-165 mg of sodium per serving as well as 30-75 mg of potassium per serving.

Keep these facts in mind as you begin a training program or ramp up the intensity of your current program. Always practice proper hydration habits during your training sessions, stopping for a drink every 10-20 minutes for workouts lasting longer than an hour. There will be a blind taste test incentive beginning shortly at Intelligent Fitness for anyone interested in participating. Keep an eye out for it soon.