Ever since the introduction of Gatorade nearly 3 decades ago, sports has been flooded with hundred of drinks of every type. From amateur to professional sports, everyone is into sports drinks. So what is a sports drink? Essentially a sports drink is a beverage designed to help athletes maintain hydration; replenish lost electrolytes, offer calories and other nutrients like vitamins. The chief reason one drinks fluid before, during and after exercise is to replace lost body water that is lost through sweating. If the fluids are not replaced, one can develop cramps, tire out, and develop severe exhaustion. The purpose of all fluids is to replace lost fluid.

However, should every one consume a sport drink?

Most sports drinks contain a moderate concentration of salt, sugar artificial coloring, carbohydrates and or protein. Sports drinks come in all types of flavors, colors and have variety of vitamins added to the beverage. Most sports drinks work by replenishing fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. There is no evidence that consuming sports drink will help you perform better or develop bigger bodies. The only benefit of sports drink is to replace fluids and electrolytes you have lost during sweating. Even though sports magazines and TV do advertise and hype up sports drinks, one has to know the majority of sport drinks are alike, contain similar chemicals and nutrients; only color of the bottle is different.

So what drink should one buy?

There is no difference what sports drinks one consumes. Individuals who exercise on an irregular basis for short periods, water is the safest, cheapest and best drink. Individuals who are committed to training and performing intense exercises may drink water or any other sports drinks on the market. Many sports drinks are hyped up as being high calorie with the ability to repair muscle. In reality, most sports drinks are worthless. If sports drinks were to work as advertized, then we would not be having athletes developing cramps, muscle injuries, or getting tired- in reality, facts show that athletes still develop injuries, cramps and frequently drop out of competitions despite consuming all types of sports drinks. Further, recent analysis have revealed that many sports drinks are nothing more than water lot of sugar, salt and some coloring. Furthermore, sports drinks do not come cheap. Today there are also many sports drinks that contain high calorie proteins. The vendors claim that these carbohydrate-protein drinks help one recover faster. Many sports drinks also contain a variable amount of caffeine. Some drinks have as much as 3-6% of herbal caffeine inside. So if you do not want caffeine, start reading the labels before you buy your drinks

What do medical experts say about sports drinks?

An 8-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains only 50 calories and has 110 mgs of sodium. Gatorade is best geared for individuals who run marathons or go cycling for long distances. In general, the drink is of no use to the everyday athlete because it only proves unnecessary calories, sugar, and a lot of salt. Unlike what manufacturers of Gatorade claim, there is little scientific evidence that Gatorade can improve performance. A 32-ounce bottle of PowerAde contains 280 calories, 220 mg of sodium and 76 grams of sugar. The drink made by Coca Cola is heavily marketed for all athletes and even for individuals who are just starting out into sports. The company claims that the 32-ounce drink is best suited for athletes who perform intense or strenuous exercise. For the amateur athlete who jogs, an 8-pounce bottle will suffice. An 8 oz bottle of Glaceau Vitamin Water contains 50 calories. The company claims that this drink has low calories and is made with natural ingredients. Critics argue that this has drink contains too much sugar and in fact causes more harm than good. For those who intend to buy Glaceau, think again. Water is preferable.

Amazingly for some unknown reason many sports athletes feel that consuming water is inferior to sports drinks. Water is the all time winner when it comes to hydration after exercise. In most athletes, water is the way to hydrate unless one is into high performance or long duration training. There is no sports drink that can match benefits of water. While water has zero calories, it is safe for consumption, is easily available and a whole lot cheaper than any sports beverage.

A sports drink that maybe comparable to water is Polar Fruit Flavored Mineral Water. It has zero calories, contains carbonated water and natural fruit flavorings. Sports enthusiasts who want something more than water, without the redundant calories, sugar, and electrolytes may like this drink.

Next to water, nothing beats natural fruit juices, either home made or commercial. There are many natural fruit juices all of which contain some type of nutrients, sugar, sodium, and vitamins. For those individuals who prefer something more than water with a little taste, natural juices like orange, apple or mango make a great choice. For those who whole-heartedly believe that a sports drink is of benefit, one should select a drink that contains about 110-200 mg sodium per 8 ounces and 6-8 percent carbohydrate. This is about 14-19 grams of carbohydrates per 8 ounces of fluid. Too much carbohydrate can cause nausea and stomach cramping.

Final advice.

Final advice. The world of sports nutrition is a mega billion dollar business. Every week, new drinks are introduced to the sports market. Many sports drinks are hyped up with exorbitant claims. One does not need a sports drink every time one works out. Water is adequate for most exercises. Sports drinks may be of some benefit for endurance training programs. For those who have little money to spend, stick to water. For those who have money to burn, you have many choices- but water still is the best. No matter what you drink, at the end of the day, your performance will not be improved by what you drink but how you train and what you eat.

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