Weekend Warriors, which drink will you choose to replenish your body fluids after exercising, or for that matter, working? The most popular drink is the sports drink, such as Gatorade. The new fad seems to be the “energy” drink. The old-fashioned theory is that water beats them all!
Sports drinks supply most favorable amounts of carbohydrates formulated for endurance exercise to help balance the body’s chemistry. Carbohydrates are the common ingredient in both sports and energy drinks; however, the energy drinks provide far beyond the carbohydrate level needed for exercise. Well-known carbs are sugars, starches, breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk, honey, syrups, and sugar, which are the preferred source of energy for the body. The body breaks down carbs into glucose, which is carried to cells for energy.
Sodium and potassium are two electrolytes that are most often added to sports drinks to affect the fluid balance in the body. Water and a proper diet restore most normal fluid and electrolyte needs after a normal period of work or exercise; however, replacing electrolytes with a sports drink may be helpful after continuous activity, or work, especially in a hot setting.
The problem with “energy drinks” is the high content of caffeine, and in some cases, of ephedrine. While most “sports drinks” (e.g. Gatorade) are non-caffeinated and meant to replenish fluids lost in exercise, “energy drinks” have a large dose of caffeine and stimulants that actually accelerate dehydration.
Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it stimulates urine production – which removes water from your body. If you are already losing water in sweat, losing more water in your urine means needing to drink even more water during exercise. And just about anyone breaking down a truck in a shop or on a mobile unit on a hot summer day will lose sweat by the gallon. Also, cardiac arrhythmia has been attributed to the use of “energy drinks”.
Some of these “energy drinks” contain over 350 mg of caffeine per serving. In comparison, the average cup of coffee contains 80-90 mg of caffeine. Such high levels of caffeine pose the threat of dehydration to persons who consume several “energy drinks” in a day. Another danger is that people tend to consume these beverages addictively, and choose to do so INSTEAD of drinking water or an electrolyte-replenishing beverage.
Make certain that proper hydration is understood and practiced. It is critical in hot environments to encourage the consumption of plenty of water or electrolyte replenishing beverages. Make certain all persons understand the difference between a “sports drink” and an “energy drink”.
One last point, energy drinks should never be mixed with alcohol. The stimulant in energy drinks and depressant in alcohol can have dangerous effects. If you choose energy drinks, drink them in moderation, no more than 2 cans per day. They are definitely not for children!
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service