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Be a good sport when it comes to sports drinks

With hotter days setting in and summer on its way—we’re all reaching for cool, refreshing drinks particularly after physical activities.

Although sports drinks are marketed as a powerful, healthy way for cooling down, there’s more to these beverages than meets the eye.

What benefits do sports drinks provide? 

Sports or electrolyte drinks are billed as a way of replacing the water and minerals—mainly sodium—that your body loses through sweat. 

Sodium is a functional component of blood and helps to keep water within your system.

While some research shows sports drink benefits for those engaged in prolonged extreme activity—for others who exercise for an hour or less, no performance improvement results.

The problem is that most people who consume sports drinks are not athletes. 


The dark side is that a standard, 600ml sports drink contains anywhere between 36–56 grams of sugar. Imagine eating around 41/2 tablespoons of pure sugar, or 5 apples or 53 gummy bears in a single sitting!

While this intake is around 32% lower than standard soft drinks, researchers still agree that sports drinks are clearly contributing to an obesity epidemic. 

Sugar content isn’t the only thing you need to be mindful of. Sports drinks contain artificial petroleum-derived dyes, linked to hyperactivity and cancers. They also can contain damaging citric and phosphoric acids.

Mixed with activity induced dehydration and low salivary production, this combination of acids and sugar readily sticks to tooth enamel promoting bacterial growth and enamel destroying acidity—particularly on the delicate teeth of children.

Best for you

Unless you’re an extreme athlete, sports drinks are likely doing you more harm than good. Unfortunately, the same problems occur with sports rehydration powders.

If however, you’re a fan of sports drinks, never fear. Here’s a simple action plan for you to take forward:

  • For strenuous workouts, coconut water is a great alternative for replacing electrolytes—but be sure your brand has no added sugar! 
  • For moderate exercisers and children, water is still the best bet for rehydrating the body! 
  • If you must consume sports drinks avoid swishing them in your mouth; regularly ‘chase’ your sips with a water rinse; and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva and neutralise the culprits of decay. 
  • Importantly, after sports drinks it takes time for your saliva to recover and begin repair. During this time your  enamel is vulnerable so avoid brushing teeth for around 40 minutes after your last sip.