Sports Drinks Fuel Success

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In the classic ‘90s film “The Waterboy,” Adam Sandler’s character Bobby Boucher makes the college football team after his dedicated service as its waterboy. He eventually becomes known across the country for his hard-hitting tackles and sacks. At first, he is hesitant to want to hurt anyone, but eventually his coach is able to coax out his anger and emotion on the field by visualizing one of the other team’s players being mean or insulting to him.

At one point during a game before he goes in, his coach stops him and tells him, “Water sucks. Gatorade is better.” When the waterboy goes into the game, he visualizes his coach telling him that “not only does Gatorade quench your thirst better, it tastes better too.” The rest of the film is history, but the coach has a point. Water is okay, but for optimal performance, athletes should consume sports drinks.

Now I know that people are all about the newest latest health craze, and that people are generally more health-conscious than they have been in the past. People will point out the fact that sports drinks are often loaded with sugar, thus making them relatively unhealthy compared to plain water.

I’m not suggesting that athletes should stop drinking water during exercise, but science has consistently shown that there is a place for sports drinks in exercise and competition. If you are leisurely going on a stroll or a light jog, sports drinks aren’t for you. If you are doing something that doesn’t require a lot of intensity or hard work, stick to water. When it counts though, you should choose sports drinks like Gatorade.

When exercising for more than an hour — or lessif you are doing a more intense exercise — you end up sweating a lot. When that happens, you lose more than just fluids. You sweat out minerals and electrolytes that you need to perform at your best. In fact, that was the entire reason that sports drinks came around in the first place.

Gatorade was invented in the 1960s by the medical team at the University of Florida to help the football team perform better. Many of the players were affected by the heat, and as a result they often succumbed to heat-related illnesses. The players responded well after the first season using the drink, and within two years the team went on to its first ever Orange Bowl game.

The main reason is that sports drinks replenish your body’s stores of electrolytes, things like sodium and potassium. These electrolytes are more than just funny-sounding scientific terms. They can affect the amount of water in your body and how well your muscles function. If your muscles can’t function correctly, you can’t compete well. If you can’t compete well, you can’t win.

There is a reason why athletes in nearly every sport choose sports drinks over water. Sports drinks help you perform better. Not only that, but to give a throwback to our movie reference, sports drinks taste better. After all, there’s only so much water your body can drink before you get a stomachache. After a while, you just don’t have the taste or desire for water anymore. Because sports drinks taste better, you may likely end up taking in more liquid than you would otherwise.

Water has its place, but there’s no doubt that sports drinks are the undisputed king of sports hydration.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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