U study finds sports drinks largely unnecessary

Except in rare cases, sports drinks aren’t beneficial to students, the study found.

Minnesota football players refresh themselves with Powerade on the sidelines during Saturday’s game against Western Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium. Players can choose between Powerade and ice water.

Mark Vancleave

Minnesota football players refresh themselves with Powerade on the sidelines during Saturday’s game against Western Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium. Players can choose between Powerade and ice water.

Branden Largent

The consumption of sports drinks is on the rise but researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health say they are unnecessary for most University students.

Although the study was directed toward children and adolescents, college students are also one of the food companies’ primary target audiences when advertising toward through Facebook  and Twitter, said Mary Story, an SPH senior associate dean who collaborated on the study.

College students are a primary market for products like Powerade and Gatorade because they’re active and want to have energy throughout the day, Story said.

“The way these products are marketed is that they boost athletic performance,” Story said. “And that’s not true at all. Sports drinks add calories.”

Story said sports drinks are only helpful for athletes or students who engage in “vigorous physical activity for over an hour,” especially in hot and humid weather conditions.

University athletics spokesman Garry Bowman said none of the University’s athletic coaches restricts the use of sports drinks and that they note the value of sports drinks as electrolyte replacements.

Sports drinks are also advertised as healthy alternatives to soft drinks, but most sports drinks have 50 to 90 percent of the calories found in soft drinks.

According to Coca-Cola’s nutritional information, one 20-ounce bottle of fruit punch-flavored Powerade contains 125 calories and 250 mg of sodium, while a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 240 calories and 75 mg of sodium.

University junior Tyler Frank said he quit drinking sports drinks two years ago to lose weight and because his dentist told him it was bad for his teeth.

Now, Frank drinks protein shakes with 27 grams of protein before and after workouts.  

“That’s what most people do in the the gym these days, I think,” Frank said.

Story said the average student who doesn’t need the electrolyte replacements should stick with the drinking fountains.

“Water is still the best way to hydrate yourself.”