Many athletes believe the sodium in sports drinks is essential to replace the sodium lost in sweat. Wrong. Sports drinks are actually relatively low in sodium compared to what you consume in your meals. Sodium enhances fluid retention and helps keep you hydrated, as opposed to plain water that goes in one end, out the other.
If you are sweat heavily, you might lose about 1,000 to 3,000 mg sodium in an hour of hard exercise. Here are options for replacing these sodium losses:
|Endurolytes, 1 capsule
||Cheese stick, 1 oz
|PowerBar Electrolytes, 8 oz.
||Pizza, 1 slice
|Gatorade, 8 oz.
||Salt, 1/4 teaspoon
|Gatorade Endurance, 8 oz.
||Soup, 1 can Campbell's
As you can see, there is no need for anyone to drink a sports drink with their lunch, because the soup or cheese sandwich have far more sodium than the small amount of sodium in the sports drink. By consuming some salty food such as eight ounces of chicken broth before exercising in the heat, you can get a hefty dose of sodium into your body before you even start to exercise. This has been shown to enhance endurance. (1)
One triathlete reported using electrolyte replacers throughout the day. He then admitted he didn't even know what electrolytes are. I explained they are electrically charged particles, more commonly known as sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Standard foods abound with electrolytes, more so than engineered sports foods—
|Endurolytes (1 capsule)
|Nuun, (1 tab)
|PBJ & milk
|Pizza, (1 slice)
Vitamin Water and Vitamin-Enriched Sports Foods
Many engineered foods tout they are enriched with B-vitamins “for energy”. Yes, B-vitamins are needed to convert food into energy, but they are not sources of energy. Few athletes realize the body has a supply of vitamins stored in the liver, so you are unlikely to become deficient during exercise.
Athletes, who eat far more food—hence more vitamins—than sedentary folks, have the opportunity to consume abundant vitamins. A big bowl of Wheaties offers 100 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for B-vitamins. (Most cereals, breads, pastas and other grain foods are enriched with B-vitamins unless they are “all natural”.) Eight ounces of orange juice offers 100 percent of the DV for Vitamin C. In contrast, eight ounces of Energy Tropical Citrus Vitamin Water offers only 40 percent of the DV for C.
I groaned when one runner told me she ate Sports Beans ($1/100-calorie packet) for her afternoon snack. Like sports drinks, sports beans are designed to be taken during exercise. Regular jellybeans would be a far less expensive snack! She unlikely even needed extra sodium, given she ran for only an hour. Raisins, dried pineapple or grapes would make a healthier snack option
Not everyone uses sports foods to enhance their performance. Research on a simulated three-day adventure race suggests otherwise (2). When the racers were given a buffet of fueling options during this event, 86 percent of their calories came from supermarket foods (candy, pizza, sandwiches, soft drinks, coffee, bananas, etc.) as opposed to only 14 percent from engineered sports foods (sports drinks, gels, energy bars, protein bars). They reported standard foods tasted better and were more palatable. As an educated consumer, do you want to do the same?