The Sports Drink Myth Exposed

Gatorade with BromineSports drinks are one of the hottest beverage categories. PepsiCo owns Gatordade, the category leader, and Coca Cola owns Powerade. Most major sports event in this country that areco-opted by one of these brands (or worse – energy drinks, but that’s for a different posting).

Invented decades ago to help college football athletes competing in very hot weather replenish lost electrolytes, the sport drink industry has ballooned through clever marketing and now it seems every jog around the block, or little league game deserves requires replenishment via a brightly colored sports drink.

We’re here today to pop a needle in the sports drink marketing balloon. Evidence is mounting that for most people, there is absolutely no benefit to sports drinks over plain water. On the contrary, the excess sugar or artificial sweeteners may actually do harm. Read more in this article in the LA Times.

Point in case is the popular Gatorade Thirst Quencher, Perform 02, Orange. Here is the ingredient list:

Water, Sucrose, Dextrose, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, Gum Arabic, Yellow 6, Glycerol Ester of Rosin, Brominated Vegetable Oil.

Second and third ingredients are sugars. Sucrose is supposedly a cooler name for table sugar. Dextrose is glucose (the most basic sugar. Table sugar is made of glucose plus fructose).

There is no real orange here. The flavors are added, and the color comes from a potentially harmful artificial color – Yellow 6.

Last but not least is Brominated vegetable oil, banned in Europe, but not here! Liquid bromine — also found in photo paper, car seats, mattresses, and carpeting — is corrosive and extremely hazardous to our skin and lungs. It is fat-soluble and so builds up in our tissues. A 16-ounce soft drink made with brominated vegetable oil contains approximately 2 milligrams of bromine.

What to do at the supermarket:

Do yourself a favor and drink water after your workout. Most recreational athletes get more than enough sodium in their regular diet. If you need to replenish with something more substantive – have a banana.

If you are an elite athlete training for over an hour in hot conditions, you can opt for a sports drink. But don’t start drinking sports drinking in order to become an elite athlete…

  • Jill Brock

    Thanks, great research.

  • Oh Lardy

    I recently did a post on Sports drinks!! I also added a healthy alternative. Check it out if you are interested:

  • MrBillSteven

    Sports drinks suck… but you hit on one of my BIGGEST pet peeves! The presence of bromine in photo paper, et. al, has no bearing on its safety in food. The connection is a logical fallacy . The following examples should prove my point: onions contain sulfur which is also found in batteries, plastic, car tire; fruit, bread and coffee contain acetaldehyde, a carcinogen and toxin found in cigarette smoke, diesel fumes. I could connect every element in our body to something “bad”.

    • CT

      I second that! There are a good number of my pet peeves in this article as well!

      The first being that “if Europe decides something is a good/bad idea, the US should do the same”. Why is that such a good thing? Why should we model ourselves after Europe on all food/health/nutrition/safety issues?

      The second being that basic high school chemistry is too often ignored – and this article is a classic example. Bromine is a chemical element in the periodic table. Yes, it has unique properties. But these properties change when it is combined with other chemical elements. For example, take pure sodium (Na) and throw it into water and it explodes; sodium chloride (NaCl) in water dissolves harmlessly.

      Using this same logic, I could say that carbon is (gasp!) extremely harmful and should not be in foods. After all, carbon (chemical element:C) is found in things like cyanide, TNT, and rat poison, as well as a myriad of other dangerous toxins.

      This reminds me of a blog post I read last year, where someone was arguing that FDA needed to create limits for “chlorophyll” in foods, saying that “chlorophyll” was obviously related to “chloroform”, which was toxic.

  • Tom

    I like sports drink. It is myth? I don’t think so! During my trainings I am drinking it. It give me more energy.

  • James Cooper

    A lot of bad science here, even though your basic point may be valid. “Sucrose” is not a “cooler name,” it is the correct chemical name. Brominated vegetable oil has a bromine replacing a hydrogen in the fatty oils. This is a covalent bond. Bromine in photo paper is in the form of bromide, a water soluble salt. No relationship to that or to liquid bromide, where two bromine atoms form a Br-Br covalent bond. AND there is no evidence that yellow #6 is harmful. If there is, you should cite scientific studies, as you should for brominated vegetable oil.

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