The Loop

Fitness Friday: Are Sports Drinks a Sham?

August 18, 2012

*Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he gives you 10 tips on finding a great gym for your golf workouts. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman**.

Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest*

Here's Ron: I've never been a fan of sports drinks. I think they contain too much sugar (natural or artificial), too many calories and too many unnatural ingredients. Those elements override the fact that they are adding sodium and potassium (electrolytes) to your body when you need them the most. I also question whether most people need an electrolyte supplement since they already consume way more salt than the recommended allowance set by the USDA (2,300 milligrams a day for those who aren't at high-risk for heart disease). The third strike against sports drinks is that they contain simple carbohydrates, which can lead to energy spikes and crashes during a typical four-hour round of golf.

My dislike of sports drinks has resulted in many debates with experts on fitness and nutrition. I've often wondered if I was wrong to advocate simply drinking water when you get thirsty. My stance was built on years of talking to health and fitness experts and reading research, but there was so much division on the topic, I sometimes doubted my position.

I don't doubt it anymore. Thanks to some great research by British Medical Journal staffer Deborah Cohen, I now feel there is enough proof to oppose the use of sports drinks as a way to battle dehydration and fatigue while playing golf. If you like the taste and don't mind the extra calories, then go for it. They are a marginally better option than soda or sweetened tea. However, don't expect me to buy one for you.

Cohen's article links the biggest sports-drink companies with some of the biggest sports-medicine organizations. Most alarming was her discovery that in many instances, the scientific research done on the benefits of sports drinks was funded by, you guessed it, the sports-drink companies. Do you really think the company funding the research would publish evidence that hurt the product's marketability? If you follow this logic, then you won't be surprised to find out almost all the studies lacked sufficient credibility to say sports drinks are better at hydrating than water.

Cohen's article is a monster, but I'm attaching the link if you want to read it and also watch some videos from a nutrition expert on various myths about hydration. Even if you simply spend a few minutes looking it over, you'll learn quite a bit. You can read it by clicking here.

*Ron Kaspriske

Fitness Editor

Golf Digest__ __*