Sports drinks such as Gatorade are designed to give you an energy boost before and during training or sporting competition and help you recover afterward. The downside to sports drinks, however, is the sugar and calorie content. According to sports physiologist Dr. Greg Wells, the average person doesn't need a sports drink, and you could do yourself a favor by switching to a healthier alternative.
Sticking With Water
Water may well be all you need to keep you going through your workout. Though it doesn't provide anything in the way of carbohydrates and electrolytes, water is perfectly adequate for low-intensity exercise for up to 50 minutes. Water is also calorie-free, making it a better option if you're using training to help you lose weight rather than to improve sports performance.
Creating Healthy Options
The downside to water is that it contains no sodium, notes nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, consultant to the New York Giants and New York Knicks. This can cause your body to lose fluid. Some carbohydrate can also be helpful to maintain energy levels, so dietitian Barbara Lewin suggests a homemade sports drink containing 3 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1/4 cup of maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
A more natural alternative to a processed sports drink is coconut water. Per cup, it contains 252 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of carbohydrate, compared with 160 milligrams of sodium and 21 grams of carbs in a serving of Gatorade's Thirst Quencher. Coconut water is often marketed as a sports drink because of its comparable sodium and carb content, notes the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Making Way for Milk
Surprisingly, chocolate milk could also be a nutritious substitution for sports drinks. Chocolate milk provides carbohydrates, calcium and minerals, notes Felice Kurtzman, sports nutritionist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Milk also contains more protein, calcium and potassium than sports drinks. Chocolate milk has a higher carbohydrate content than regular milk, so it's more suited to those training at higher intensities and burning more calories. If you're exercising at a lower intensity, regular skim milk may be a better choice.