Athletes and avid exercisers often reach for sports drinks as a way to replenish and hydrate their bodies. To tap into new markets, most of the top brands – including Powerade, Lucozade and Gatorade – have low-calorie or even no-calorie product extensions.
But do these products actually work? Are they effective? Or is it just a marketing gimmick?
The answer is yes. They do work – to some degree. But it’s also a marketing gimmick.
When we sweat, we tend to lose electrolytes. If your balance of electrolytes is off, you may experience weakness, twitching, fatigue, confusion or a handful of other hindering issues. Just like traditional sports drinks, the low or no-calorie alternatives contain the electrolytes your body needs during intense exercise. The resulting electrolyte balance can help athletes maximize their performance levels.
But if you’re looking for a low or no-calorie sports drink to boost your energy levels or restore depleted glycogen, think again. Very literally, we measure energy in calories. And by definition, a zero calorie sports drink contains zero energy. For this reason, there’s really something ridiculous about the trend towards reduced calorie sports beverages.
Moreover, our bodies need carbohydrates after exercise. If we don’t consume carbs through the food we eat or the beverages we drink, our bodies can breakdown hard-earned muscle to get the glycogen that’s needed. And low or no-calorie sports drinks, which often have little or no carbohydrates, won’t give your body the fuel it needs.
In my opinion, low or no-calorie beverages don’t deserve the label “sports drinks.” In fact, I think the marketing can be misleading for consumers. While these low or no-calorie options provide some benefits, traditional sports drinks – or even coconut water – are a much smarter choice.