- There are lots of different commercial sports drinks sold today, but they are not always the best choice. While these beverages provide us with extra nutrients and electrolytes, they also contain a lot of added sugars. Consuming a lot of extra sugar can contribute to many serious diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and even cancer.
- The best natural alternatives to commercial sports drinks are sparkling spirulina drinks, milk, green tea, black coffee, vegetable juices, smoothies, and coconut water. Keep in mind that these drinks don’t replace plain water, and you still have to make sure you drink enough of it.
- You can also make your own natural sports drinks at home. All you need to do is to add cucumber, ginger, lemon, lime, or mint to your water, and you’ll get a refreshing and nutrient-infused beverage.
It’s hard not to get your eye caught by colourful labels and loud promises when looking at the sports drink shelf at the supermarket. With a countless variety of options offered on the market today, it’s become incredibly hard to find one that will really provide us with all the benefits. Many popular sports drinks claim to contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes and even help improve physical performance. While most mass-produced sports drinks indeed contain added vitamins and minerals, they also add a lot of extra sugar, especially fructose, to your diet.
It’s become a tradition among athletes to drink pre and post-workout drinks full of electrolytes, but it’s a big myth that everyone needs them. The truth is that if you follow a healthy and balanced diet, you don’t need extra vitamins or nutrients from processed beverages. Most of the people who consume workout drinks don’t have vitamin or electrolyte deficiencies. And because the vitamins that the pre-made sports drinks provide are water-soluble, it’s likely that your body will immediately excrete them instead of absorbing and using them. However, your body will store all the extra sugar these drinks contain.
Why Are Commercial Sports Drinks Bad For You?
They are High in Sugar
The type of sugar different sports drink companies add to their beverages varies across different brands and countries, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of these drinks contain added sugars and flavourings. Most sports drinks contain over 30 grams of sugar in one bottle. For some brands of sports drinks, the sugar content is on par or even higher than that of notoriously unhealthy fizzy drinks.
High Sugar Levels Can Cause Obesity
Regardless of your workout goals, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. Hence, if you consume extra sugar with beverages, you increase your daily caloric intake. What’s worse, sports drinks don’t make you feel full, which means you won’t even feel the extra calories you consume! Over time, this can result in weight gain and put you at risk of many related diseases.
Increased Risk of Diseases
It’s not a secret that consuming a lot of extra sugar leads to many diseases. Health experts say that added sugars contribute to diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and metabolic syndrome. Fructose, which is used in many drinks, puts extra pressure on the liver, which is why its consumption is associated with high cholesterol and triglycerides levels, increased blood pressure, and insulin resistance. It also contributes to fatty liver disease. However, these adverse effects do not occur when we get fructose from fruits.
And what about lost electrolytes during a workout? Well, nutritionists say that unless you’re a professional athlete or someone who engages in high-intensity workouts, there’s no need for you to replenish your electrolytes with any special drinks. Simply drinking clean water is enough.
But people who love consuming sports drinks and don’t enjoy drinking water after workouts have plenty of natural and healthy alternatives to commercial sports beverages. The drinks below will provide you with the same (and even more) health benefits as and without impacting your sugar levels.
Best Natural Sports Drinks
FUL® Sparkling Spirulina Drinks
If you are in the market for a healthy alternative to commercial bottled sports drinks, sparkling spirulina drinks by FUL® may be just what you need. Spirulina is a superfood with an exceptional nutrient profile. It’s rich in vital vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants, which makes it a perfect addition to pre or post-workout sports drinks. High amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese found in spirulina promote muscle and nerve function and help maintain healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Sparkling spirulina drinks by FUL® are all-natural, refreshing drinks that will keep you hydrated and let you enjoy all the benefits of spirulina. They are available in different delicious flavours that hide the unpleasant natural flavour of spirulina. These beverages are also free of added sugars.
Coconut water is one of the top choices when it comes to healthy electrolyte drinks. It’s low in sugar but provides essential minerals like calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Keep in mind that it’s important to drink beverages that contain some sodium after workouts since we excrete it with sweat during the exercise. Sodium helps the body to maintain fluid balance and helps improve nerve and muscle function.
Vegetable and Fruit Juices
Natural juices are an excellent healthy alternative to sugary sports drinks. Fruit juices are full of electrolytes and vitamins, as well as essential antioxidants. For example, watermelon juice is very nutritious and hydrating since it mostly contains water. Additionally, one cup of pure watermelon juice provides almost 6% of the recommended daily value of potassium and magnesium. You can also try tart cherry juice or orange juice, which are full of antioxidants and vital nutrients.
Vegetable juices are high in fibre and contain less sugar than fruit juices. These drinks will also replenish your sodium levels and provide you with essential minerals and vitamins. You can always juice both vegetables and fruits together and get an even more nutrient-rich beverage.
Milk is not just a bedtime drink or something you add to coffee, it’s a great source of electrolytes too! It contains minerals like calcium, potassium, and sodium and provides an excellent combination of protein and carbs. Studies have found that milk can refuel your energy levels as well as help with muscle repair. Depending on your dietary preferences, you can go with skim, low-fat, or whole milk. There are also a lot of plant-based alternatives available. Plant milk doesn’t provide as many health benefits as cow’s milk, but you still get some advantages from drinking it. For example, researchers have found that protein in soy milk can promote muscle repair and provide you with necessary electrolytes.
This hydrating hot beverage can promote muscle relaxation as well as give you an antioxidant boost. The antioxidants found in green tea have been proven to improve the immune system functioning as well as lower the risk of certain cancers.
Caffeine found in coffee will help you to avoid fatigue after a workout. Additionally, recent studies have found that consuming black coffee might minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Black coffee contains antioxidants that prevent cell damage and heart disease.
Smoothies are great if you want to get all the benefits from different vegetables and juices in one drink. Besides mixing veggies, fruits, and yoghurt, you can also add nuts, seeds, and legumes. This is also a great option if you tend to lose appetite after a workout. Protein-rich smoothies can refuel you with electrolytes and promote muscle tissue repair and growth.
However, it’s better to drink smoothies after a workout. They keep you full for a while, which may interfere with your performance if you drink them during or right before exercising.
Plain water is an absolute essential for any human. It’s also an excellent drink to consume instead of sugary sports drinks. Nothing can replace plain water in your diet, and you have to make sure you drink enough of it every day. Consuming water is important for our general well-being, and it contributes to every single process that goes on in our bodies. Hence, we can’t neglect our water intake.
Homemade Sports Drinks
If you like drinking sports drinks for their flavour and don’t want to give that up, you can try making DIY sports drinks at home. Making infused water is a quick and easy way to give the water a nutrient and flavour boost. Here are some ideas for you to try:
Cucumbers contain essential vitamins, including vitamins A, K, and C. They are also rich in minerals such as manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Add a few cucumber slices to a glass of water, give it a stir, and you get a quick homemade electrolyte drink.
Ginger is one of the best foods to consume if you want to support your immune system. If you infuse your water with ginger, you’ll receive a boost of vitamin B and C, as well as minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and folate.
Adding lemon or lime slices to your water is probably the most classic way to get a nutrient-rich drink. Lemons and limes contain vitamin C, B6, potassium, and folate. They support your immune system and promote healthy skin.
Along with citrus or ginger, you can add some mint to your water to get a refreshing drink. Mint is also rich in minerals like manganese and copper and vitamins A, C, B6, E, and K.
What is a better alternative to bottled sports drinks?
The best natural and sugar-free alternatives to store-bought sports drinks are FUL spirulina drinks, milk, black coffee, vegetable juices, smoothies, green tea, and coconut water. You can also make water infusions at home by using ginger, mint, limes, cucumbers or lemons. These drinks will provide you with the same benefits as commercially produced sports beverages without adding extra sugar to your diet.
How can I replace electrolytes without Gatorade?
You can get enough electrolytes just by following a healthy diet that includes dairy products and bananas. If you’re looking for a drink that provides extra electrolytes, good options include coconut water, FUL sparkling spirulina drinks, smoothies, and vegetable and fruit juices.
Which flavoured water is the healthiest?
FUL sparkling spirulina drinks are healthy and 100% natural drinks that will provide you with lots of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, spirulina extract contained in these beverages also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, promotes the immune system, and may help alleviate some chronic conditions.