Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink
— “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
For the old timers in the gym, bear with me as I’m going to cover some ground that I’ve hit before. For those newer to the gym, I wanted to touch on the various choices of beverage many of you may choose to imbibe pre- and post-workout since I get these questions often. There’s lots of slick marketing hype out there designed to convince you that you NEED something more than regular water, so lets take a look at some of the most popular choices.
Sports drinks are a big business. Advertisers love to feature athletes drinking their beverages so people form a mental connection between the two. Who can forget the iconic “Be Like Mike” campaign?
Then there’s this more recent campaign, featuring my least favorite player:
The funny thing is that most people view the 2nd commercial and shake their heads at the thought of drinking soda after a workout. But aside from the carbonation, there’s not a lot of difference between Sprite and Gatorade. In fact, while they plan to change this year to a glucose-dextrose blend, Gatorade has been using HFCS as their energy source of choice… just like sodas. Further muddying the waters is the fact Gatorade is owned by Pepsi, while Coke owns Powerade. Yet oddly, many people reach for a Gatorade thinking that it’s somehow healthier than a can of soda.
This falls into much the same category as Gatorade and unsurprisingly, is owned by Coca-Cola (sensing a pattern here?). It is little more than flavored and sugared water with a handful of vitamins to make you feel better about drinking it. Maybe Coke wanted to stick their nose back into this arena after Diet Coke Plus bombed. In fact, much like Coke was admonished for making misleading claims about Diet Coke Plus, the same has happened to them with Vitamin Water. As the linked article mentions, “while Vitamin Water may appear virtuous, each brightly-coloured bottle contains as much as five teaspoons of sugar.” Of course, they have the sugar-free version so you may be tempted to go that route. As I said previously on this topic, aside from artificial sweeteners, it’s still just flavored water. If I needed to convince a 5 year old to drink more water and it would get them to switch from sucking down juice boxes, sure. For an adult, they should save their money and just drink water. If they have that overpowering a sweet tooth, they likely have more problems than dehydration.
…aka Gatorade for the paleo crowd. This is one of the more popular drink options among the CrossFitting crowd. It doesn’t usually offend the paleo purists since you technically could crack open a coconut and get the same product. While there are myriad health claims for the stuff, an outside lab recently tested and found that the label claims don’t always add up. Also, for those of you playing along and keeping tabs on the beverage mafia ties, two of the biggest brands are owned by Pepsico and Coca-Cola — O.N.E. and Zico, respectively. For now, the corporate ownership seems benign enough, but watch those labels… you never know when they may decide you would benefit from some HFCS in your coconut water.
Alkaline and other designer Waters
This is a newer fad that has caught like wildfire in the CrossFit community. Everyone wants to look for an edge and the alkaline water companies will throw lots of late-night infomercial techniques to make them look like another cure-all when they are really snake oil. The power in the sales pitch is that alkaline water is frequently sold via multi-level marketing and for those who make the initial steep (~$2000 per machine) investment for a dispenser, the buyer wants desperately to believe they didn’t waste their money. Again, alkaline water is a subject I tackled a little while ago, but the fad continues to grow. The sad thing is, the science just doesn’t add up but people rarely dig that deeply. In this category I would also lump waters that claim to alter the molecular configuration of water, also debunked via good ol’ chemistry.
It should come as no surprise that the recommended drink of choice is plain ol’ water. Your body doesn’t need the extra sweeteners once you train your taste buds accordingly. Oh and those magical electrolytes? They’re pretty much nothing more than table salt. Unless you come into the gym seriously dehydrated, you would only need electrolytes after three or more hours of extreme exercising. Of course the other thing to keep in mind is if you are trying to lose body fat, any of the options containing sugars shouldn’t be in your fridge — yes, even coconut water.
So did I miss any? Please post to comments if there’s another one of these sports beverages you want me to look into and I’ll make a future post about it!
Clean & Jerk 3-2-1-1-1
(x3) Double Unders
(i.e. 20 KB Snatches, 20 sit ups, 60 double unders…)