My Journey to Find the Best Beverage to Drink as an Athlete – My Findings…

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I keep hearing about how bad Powerade really is for me. We as consumers are always shown that Powerade and Gatorade are the best sports drinks and that they are the best fuel replenishers for us as athletes. Well I have finally decided to do some research on this topic. I’ll be looking at what is really in these drinks and how bad or good they really are. I will also do the unthinkable, and compare these sports drinks to soda.

The first drink I will be looking at is a very common and popular soda drank throughout the U.S., Mountain Dew.

Mountain Dew Label

Notice that sugar count. I’m not too worried about the calories or sodium, because obviously a sports drink will have more sodium than pop to replenish our salts.  Carbs don’t bother me either. Now let’s look at Powerade’s label.

Powerade label

This is a 12 oz. (355 ml) bottle, so it is the same size as the Mountain Dew can above. The Mountain Dew bottle had 46 g of sugars, Powerade has 21 g. And note that Powerade bottles are usually bigger than soda cans. A regular size Powerade bottle has 34 g of sugar. Just 12 g less than Mountain Dew. That alone should scare you.

Now remember, the ultimate goal of Powerade is to replenish carbs, vitamins and minerals, and electrolytes. But is drinking all of that sugar really worth it or should we switch to something else. Before we decide (actually I’ll let you decide for yourself), let’s take a look as some other sports drinks.

Gatorade Label

First realize that this is a 20 oz. bottle of Gatorade. The other labels were for 12 oz. bottles, so Gatorade does seem to have a bit less sugar than Powerade, but the difference is not by much.

Vitamin Water Label

I think most nutritionists will agree that Vitamin Water is not healthy. Although it does include some vitamins and minerals, there is just too much sugar and sweeteners that are added. These drinks, along with Powerade, Gatorade, and any other “sports drink” are especially bad to drink for non-athletes because of the calorie and carbohydrate intake. Drinking these without fitness activity can cause fat gain.

Aspire label
Aspire Sports Beverage Label

Out of any sports drink, this one might be towards the top of the list. Aspire is a smaller company that has just recently had their sports drink line gain popularity. Sugars are at 8 g, less than half of what is in most other 12 oz. drinks. The downside to this sports drink is that (as I have personally drank some of these during athletic events) they don’t taste very good. Soda is good to drink with a cheeseburger, pizza, or pretty much any time. Powerade tastes not quite as good, but is still drinkable with a good dinner or snack.

The problem is that the drinks, like Aspire, that are more healthy (more like less unhealthy) for us just don’t taste good. So, as a general rule, the more sugar the better the taste. Not in all cases, but in most. So that led me on a journey to find a sports drink that tasted good and that I wouldn’t feel bad about drinking.

What did I find? Not much…

I first looked at protein shakes. They are obviously more popular in the weight room rather than the basketball court or football field, but I am keeping an open mind. I actually found some claims that were contrary to my prior beliefs.

Take this Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein…

Whey Protein Isolate Label Gold Standard
Whey Protein Isolate Gold Standard (Double Rich Chocolate) Label

The first thing that pops out to me (and I’m sure most of you) is the protein: 24 g. The sugar is extremely low, sodium is high (usually good), and everything else seems to check out. What I realized here is that I don’t even usually check the labels on protein powders. The very first thing I do when checking to see if protein powders are healthy or not is the ingredients. I have compiled a list of ingredients you want to stay away from as much as possible:

-Artificial sweeteners
-Glucose, sucralose
-Milk solids/powders

And actually as I researched more, the more findings I found that a ton of protein in the form of powder isn’t always even the best, or good in general. What we as athletes are looking for in a sports drink (yes, even for weightlifting) is a little bit of protein and a lot of carbohydrates. That was very surprising to me because I was always told that eating carbohydrates before athletic events will lead to the best outcome because it gives us energy.

The fact of the matter is that building muscle is possible without protein. And not to mention, protein powder isn’t something that you will want to be drinking on a regular basis throughout the day. It is usually just a one time thing.

So now we know what not to look for, but what do we want in a sports drink?

No specific ingredients, but a good mix of the following:

-Carbohydrates (depending on the circumstance)

PowerBar Recovery Label
PowerBar Recovery

This PowerBar is known to simply taste terrible. It contains 90 calories, three grams or protein, and 10g of sugar in a scoop. It supports muscle recovery and repair, rapid re-hydration, and speeds glycogen restoration. I made my mind up when I found out that it tastes bad.

Muscle Milk
Muscle Milk

Muscle Milk widely known throughout the U.S. and weightlifting community. In fact, it is in most gas stations and convenience stores. However, it contains soy lecithin, maltodextrin, milk protien, and too many artificial flavors and oils.

After searching for hours and hours, I finally found some drinks that tasted at least alright, and were mostly healthy…

Pur Pak - Active Lifestyle Supplement
Pur Pak – Active Lifestyle Supplement
Emergen-C Vitamin C Dietary Supplement (click to buy)

And the Winner is (which I do drink on a regular basis)…

Power Paks – Electrolyte Stamina (click to buy)

I will say that I am still looking for something that I get excited to see no matter the time of day or scenario. The previous are mostly healthy for you, but still don’t have that taste or Powerade, soda, or Gatorade. Who knows, maybe I’ll start producing my own line of drinks some day.

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