Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is There Any Point to Gatorade?

There are eight kinds of Gatorade  -- several of which are
in test marketing. 
About two months ago, I got sick while exercising, and the doctor said I should pay attention to my electrolytes. Prior to this, I just tried to stay hydrated, but never paid attention to electrolytes.  I thought that would wash out the excess sodium from all the over-salted food I eat.  Of course all that water also washes out other minerals like potassium and calcium which are important to muscle function.

I bought myself some salty Gatorade -- it was G Series PRO 2 Perform.  Isn't that a ridiculously complicated name for salty Kool-Aid?  There are eight kinds of Gatorade now, but most are not available in the Detroit metro -- looks like test marketing or perhaps Southern US specific marketing.

Yesterday, I made point of drinking about 20 ounces for about 130 calories and an unknown amount of electrolytes over my two hour workout today. I thought I felt better. So was that real or imagined?

Turns out this is a thoroughly studied question, and not only at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute or whatever. Jason Winnick et al gave twenty athletes either 6% sugar water or placebo. The ones with the sugar water ran faster, jumped higher and had a better mood than the placebo of flavored water.  This study says sports drinks work.

My question is whether six Jolly Rancher candy would have the same effect as the Gatorade.  Is it the sugar or is it the salt?

The National Trainers Association and NIH are more concerned with preventing dehydration that getting peak performance. 1-2% weight loss due to dehydration will cause loss of performance, and 3% will cause muscle cramps. So for me, 2% weight loss is about 3 pounds -- which is a lot, but it probably happens on humid summer days.  The trainers recommend drinking about one liter every hour, and measuring dehydration by the color of the urine -- they have a color scale prepared, or better by measuring urine density if you have a densitometer handy.

In 1992, a study recommended sugar water before and during exercise at about 50% of the volume that one sweated out. In 1998 a Gatoraid sponsored study showed that 12 year boys drank more fluid if it had sugar in it, but there was not performance advantage.

In summary, salty sugar water helps performance and mood, so it seems to be worthwhile. I suppose I'll try it again.