Are Sports Drinks Making You Fat?

September 17, 2016

 If you’re sippin Gatorade and powerade on the regular then you should definitely keep reading…


Far too many have been drinking far too much Gatorade ever since it debuted in the beginning of 1965 at the University of Florida. Such a strong statement on my part probably has you wondering why I am a Gatorade hater. Truth is, I love Gatorade! Who doesn’t love a sugary- sweet, flavorful drink? But the fact of the matter is that sometimes it is important to hard-pass the Gatorade and stick with some ice-cold water in order to avoid packing on the pounds.


Gatorade can actually be quite beneficial (it definitely was for me when I almost collapsed upon “hitting the wall” at mile 18 in the Las Vegas Marathon). Gatorade can most definitely provide energy as it is a 6% carbohydrate solution. And remember- carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel. Just one bottle has about 16 grams of carbohydrates. To be more specific, the carbohydrate source in Gatorade is sucrose (a form of sugar)- one of the most high glycemic and fast digesting carbohydrates out there. So it makes sense that when my energy tank has hit rock bottom in the middle of an endurance event that some fast-acting sugar would keep me alive as it shoots into my bloodstream practically the second I swallow it. Sports drinks are the perfect solution for endurance events that can cause complete rapid depletion of glycogen.


Glycogen = stored glucose = which is another name for sugar


Most sports drinks also provide electrolytes.  Electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium, sodium, etc.) are critical to physiological processes in the body. For example, muscle contraction, requires potassium and calcium. Without these electrolytes we may experience muscle cramping or an inability to use our muscles effectively. It makes sense why my muscles tensed up around mile 18 in my marathon. Clearly, I wasn’t just running low on glucose.


As you can see, there are many positive aspects to sports drinks. However, lets see both sides of the equation.


A 30 minute workout in the gym is not likely to deplete your glycogen stores entirely. So say you bring your Gatorade with you to workout anyway just because you love Gatorade- and who came blame you, Gatorade tastes good. You workout hard, practically sweating colors like the elite athletes in those Gatorade commercials while sipping on that sugary red stuff. What you are doing is adding calories and fast-digesting carbs throughout your workout. Consuming a high glycemic drink when your body already has plenty of glycogen stored will spike your blood glucose levels above the normal/stable range. Spiking blood glucose will in turn spike insulin levels which have the job of coming in and moving the glucose into either your muscles or converting it into fat. This process, of having elevated insulin running through your body, makes it impossible for your body to break down triglycerides into free fatty acids to be metabolized. What does all this mean? Your body will use carbohydrates for fuel rather than fat.  I don’t know about you but I would definitely like to be burning fat on the treadmill rather than carbs in my attempts to decrease body fat percentage and become a lean mean workout machine. haha but really. That gatorade is just fueling you with a surplus of carbs and your muscles have PLENTY of carbs so your insulin assists in converting the glucose into fat. Studies suggest that having sports drinks during workouts that are less than 60-90 minutes in duration is actually counterintuitive- and now you know why!


Your body wants to burn fat by using fat as fuel. So let it do its job! Sippin on sports drinks throughout the day will keep your insulin levels high and your fat metabolism at zip, nada, nothin! Again, packing in extra glucose will only cause your body to store it away for a later day in the form of fat. So despite the fact that commercials, marketing, etc. make us think that sports drink make us athletes, truth is, they're more likely going to make us fatter!


The takeaway?


If you compete in intense cardio sports that last more than 60-90 minutes than sports drinks can prove to be beneficial. If you are bored and looking for an afternoon pick me up with a sonic-run, swig-run, or whatever drink place there is-run, I say use your willpower and your un-fat self will thank you for it!


(On today's 20 mile long run- St.George Marathon in 14 days!! SOOO soon *insert nervous emoji"- I had to strategically place 3 powerade bottles (before I begin the run by driving in my car to drop off the 3 bottles at random placed on the 20 mile run). hahah I feel so awkward hiding them- like this one which I hid under a rock- but someone seriously stole my water bottle I placed on my run last week! MESSED UP, RIGHT?! So now I am paranoid someone will steal these and as discussed in this article GLUCOSE IS IMPORTANT especially on these 20-milers so I just awkwardly hide them and then look around to make sure no one sees my hiding spot... haha I know I'm a weirdo but someone please tell me I'm not alone in this?)


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