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Clearing Up Common Myths about Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks, and Diet Sodas

Clearing Up Common Myths about Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks, and Diet Sodas


For some members of today’s society – particularly those who are busy, stressed, or overweight – sports drinks, energy drinks, and diet sodas might seem like miracle elixirs. The advertising campaigns promoting these products promise loads of energy, healthy nutrients, athletic domination, and weight loss. After watching a Gatorade® TV commercial featuring a completely jacked athlete dripping neon-colored sweat while crushing his opponent, what 15-year old Little Leaguer could be blamed for scampering down to the corner 7-11 and picking himself up a cherry-flavored sports drink? And since the cheeky cartoon characters in Red Bull’s TV ads manage to finagle themselves out of every sticky situation with one swill of the energy drink, you can bet your buns that after seeing the ad, the exhausted mother of four driving the carpool van will be making a grocery stop for a case of the good stuff.

But are advertisers of these products taking advantage of the weak, the weary, and the overweight? Do their claims hold any truth? And, most importantly, does Red Bull really give you wings? DocShop investigates some of the most common myths about sports drinks, energy drinks, and diet sodas.

Sports Drinks

Myth #1: Sports drinks are necessary to replenish the nutrients you lose during a workout.

If you are LaDainian Tomlinson, yes. Sports drinks were designed to help athletes rehydrate and replenish nutrients such as sodium and sugar that they lose during an intense bout of athletic activity (generally, a workout lasting over an hour in which a significant amount of energy is burned). The average person is probably not losing enough electrolytes to require a sports drink while they plug along on the elliptical for half an hour. That being said, be sure to hydrate during workouts with lots of water, which doesn't have the calories, sugar, and carbohydrates that sports drinks do.

Myth #2: Sports drinks boost your metabolism.

No. The rationale behind this myth is that sports drinks give you energy, which causes you to work out harder and burn more calories, thus increasing your metabolism. But sports drinks contain plenty of unnecessary calories, sugar, and carbohydrates that are unhealthy and do nothing for your metabolism if you merely consume one and pass out on the couch. If you do need a quick pick-me-up to power through a workout, experts say a better option is to drink a cup of coffee or tea with 150 milligrams of caffeine. These drinks are stimulants, but they don't have the sugars and calories that energy drinks contain.

Energy Drinks

Myth #1: Energy drinks burn calories.

Not by themselves. Energy drinks are full of caffeine, which provides a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash. But unless you are using all of that energy to engage in some sort of activity, the drink alone will not burn any calories. A burst of energy can be helpful before starting any exercise, but you’d be better off getting that energy from a piece of fruit or serving of protein.

Myth #2: Alcohol + Energy Drinks = Good Time.

Unless your definition of a good time includes irregular heartbeat rhythms, high blood sugar, and even seizures, this formula is inaccurate. The stimulating ingredients of energy drinks (caffeine, taurine, ginseng) can mask the sedating effects of alcohol, which sends mixed messages to the brain. Mixing the two can result in serious dehydration – alcohol triggers dehydration, and the caffeine in energy drinks acts as a diuretic, which causes people to lose even more water. And here’s another equation: dehydration = hangover.

Diet Sodas

Myth #1: Diet sodas aid in weight loss.

Recent research points to "no." A study published by the University of Texas in 2005 found that the more diet sodas a person consumed, the higher his or her chance of being overweight. Researchers explained that people overcompensate for a diet soda by consuming even more calories elsewhere – a hamburger, bag of chips, or tub of ice cream. Some dieters assume they are saving calories by drinking a calorie-free beverage, but fail to realize that they are more than making up for those calories by eating foods high in calories and fat.

Myth #2: Diet sodas cure arthritis.

Sort of. Scientists aren't touting Diet Coke® as the miracle serum for arthritis, but studies have shown that the aspartame in diet sodas can ease the pain of arthritis and help joints to move more smoothly. However, it should be noted that some experts suggest that diet sodas could actually aggravate arthritic pain.

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