On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Sports Drinks: Gatorade Versus Homemade

DEAR DR. BLONZ: This is in response to your column about a soccer game, the provision of a sugary sports drink for children, and your concerns about active children having a drink with higher sugar content. Some years ago, a soccer coach sent me a study in the journal Pediatrics that discussed the best type of drink. Based on that study, a good choice would be a drink like Gatorade. I just went to my fridge and confirmed what I thought: Gatorade has 14 grams of sugar (50 calories) and 110 mg of sodium in an 8-ounce serving. This is exactly what that paper reported. It led me to believe this would be the ultimate drink for the children in this case, and would also have the benefit of saving 10 calories per serving, compared to the higher-sugar drink. -- F.S., Tempe, Arizona

DEAR F.S.: A sports drink can be helpful for those involved with hour-plus workouts or athletic events; this would especially be the case when exercising in warm and humid climates, or for any individual who tends to perspire heavily. Water is the key, but a properly formulated drink can help replace the sodium and potassium lost through perspiration. A small amount of carbohydrate sweetener helps make the drink more palatable, and it provides a small boost of the type of fuel that is in short supply during an extended workout -- especially one that requires periodic bursts of energy. You don’t want too much sugar, as that can work at cross-purposes by slowing nutrient absorption. I also advise against giving exercising children any drinks that contain stimulants, such as caffeine.

The article in the journal Pediatrics (tinyurl.com/ybxaf49z) describes a beverage where an 8-ounce serving contained 14 grams of sugar and 110 milligrams of sodium. This is the same formula found in Gatorade and some other sport drinks. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the products before you buy.

I encourage readers to make their own sports drinks from fresh juices (tinyurl.com/krkj8mx). Such a beverage not only provides the same water and electrolytes, but you get the bonuses of genuine flavors and the additional nutrients and phytochemicals in the fruit juice. Having young athletes involved with real-food functional recipes is also a great lesson to complement their workout. To date, I have made this drink using lemons and limes that grow on our property, but also from Concord grape, pomegranate and cherry juices. Any homemade sports drink is a perishable food, so keep it cool or frozen.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.