Exercise and hydration go hand in hand. So, it seems that sports drinks would be the perfect complement to your workout routine. Not so fast, researchers now say. Sports drinks may quench thirst but there are better, healthier options.

The drawbacks of sports drinks
The two biggest reasons to skip sports drink are calories and sugar. There are 140 calories and 34 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce lemon-lime flavored Gatorade. A 160-pound person will burn between 270-315 calories during a 60-minute walk at a moderate pace (around 3mph).

Calorie-laden sports drinks reduce that benefit
Calories added from the Gatorade subtract from your calories expended. Your exercise benefit drops from around 300 to 160.

Without the sports drink, it would take between 10 and 12 days to expend the 3,500 additional calories needed to lose one pound. With the sports drink the number of days increases to about 21.

lump-sugar-549096_640 (1)And then there’s the sugar…
According to the American Heart Association, there are two kinds of sugar in the American diet. Naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is found in things like fruit. Added sugar is in most everything else, think of your morning cereal or coffee, soft drinks, snacks and even ketchup and salad dressing. Too much sugar is harmful. In fact, Prevention magazine lists just a few of the dangers, such as:
• Fat build-up around the liver over time.
• Increased risk of diabetes and, potentially heart disease.
• Sugar interferes with satiety signals, which may cause you to overeat.
• Sugar impacts mood and energy levels
• Sugar leads to premature skin aging (wrinkles and sagging).

Recommended daily amounts of added sugar for women and men are 25 grams and 36 grams, respectively. A 20-ounce sports drink exceeds the recommended amount of sugar for women and is nearly equal to the limit recommended for men.

What to do instead
Drink water, a Harvard Health article recommends. For most people, it is enough to notice thirst signals and drink some water. Water helps balance body fluids and energizes muscles. It’s also calorie and sugar-free. How do you know if you’re getting enough? Your urine should be pale yellow.

A caveat
If you are going to do vigorous exercise for an hour or more, or are prone to muscle cramps, you may benefit from sports drinks. Alternate with water to reduce impact from calories and sugar.