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Do sports drinks have too much sugar?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Sports drinks are designed for use during intense exercise greater than one hour. Different products vary in the amount of sugar they contain, but the ingredients in sports drinks help provide a quick form of carbohydrates to keep the body going during exercise. When at rest, the body does not need this concentrated form of carbohydrates to power through a work out. When not exercising, the sugar from sports drinks would be considered empty calories, as well as create a higher risk for cavities! Unsweetened beverages would be better options to stay hydrated during this time.

Sports drinks can fuel the active muscles of endurance athletes. The carbohydrates in sports drinks provide fuel in the form of added sugars. But with over 68 percent of Americans currently overweight, our diet is clearly adequate in calories to fuel a 45-minute brisk walk daily. We don’t need a sweetened beverage to help us make it around the block.

Since soda, sports drinks and energy drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the diet, replacing these beverages with good, old fashion water may be one step towards cutting excess calories due to added sugars in our diets.




Picture of seniors exercising
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine
Sports drinks are designed to provide carbohydrates to working muscles to help delay fatigue and foster hydration. The combination of carbohydrate, sodium and fluid is to help an athlete stay well hydrated and performing at their highest level while participating/competing. Most sports drinks provide around 14 grams of carbohydrate per 8 oz of fluid, an amount that will be able to be absorbed without slowing down gastric empting. Having too much carbohydarte at one time can slow gastric empting and create a "sloshing feeling" in the gut. If you are say, watching a football instead of playing in one, then sports drinks, and the sugar they provide, are not needed. If you are training hard and long, the sugar in a sports drink provides a very functional purpose!
With a string of 90 degree days this summer, you may have quenched your thirst with the popular sport drinks on the market, but cooling off after a workout doesn't have to be so sweet.

You put everything into your workout, but when it's time to hydrate, what are you putting into you?

Popular sport drinks are designed to replenish what is burned, but how much sugar is in each drink might surprise you.
  • A 20 ounce PowerAde weighs in with over seven teaspoons of sugar. PowerAde’s low sugar option -- just over one.
  • A 32 ounce Gatorade -- a staggering 14 teaspoons of sugar. Gatorade's lower sugar brand, Propel 16 ounces, only one and a half teaspoons.
  • A 20 ounce Vitamin Water tips the scales with just over seven teaspoons.
High sugar intake is one of the main contributing factors to obesity in the country. Some people choose a sport drink thinking it's the better choice, never knowing how sweet it really is.

Remember, your sport drink doesn't have to have all that sugar. Sometimes less is more.

Provided by Dave Patania/Eyewitness News
One cup of sport drink contains 55 to 75 calories. That’s fewer calories than in a glass of fruit juice. The engineered carbohydrates in sports drinks are available to your muscles very fast and that is one of the ways they support athletic activity.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.