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Choose These Healthy Alternatives to Sports Drinks

By Vincent Pedre M.D.
August 26, 2010
File under: Drinks, Fitness, Health Concerns


Our bodies are composed of 60 percent water and it is vital for the proper functioning of cells and organs to maintain optimal hydration, especially during hot summer months.

Many of us not used to these particularly hot temperatures may end up sweating more than our body can withstand.  Certainly, serious athletes and outdoor exercise enthusiasts must make a special effort to stay hydrated during hot summer days, especially when competing in a race or triathlon.

The pursuit of the perfect sports beverage has led to the development of familiar brands, such as Gatorade and Powerade.  A quick read of their ingredients reveals that high-fructose corn syrup is one of the top ingredients.  Recently, scientists have found that taking in excess fructose to be a risk factor for developing certain types of cancer.

Pancreatic tumor cells, for example, preferentially use fructose as an energy source.  In addition, the process of refining corn syrup to its high-fructose cousin involves mercury, a known toxic metal, of which traces remain in the final product.  The long-term “healthiness” of these drinks, which are used regularly by athletes, has come into question.

We know from studying the effects of dysentery in Africa, that water alone is not enough to hydrate the body from severe fluid loss. Our bodies transport water most efficiently in conjunction with salt and glucose and adding salt and sugar to water helps get it into the tissues that need it most.  The perfect re-hydration beverage should have a combination of both, along with magnesium and potassium to help prevent muscle cramping.

Several studies have shown that re-hydrating the body with fresh coconut water is just as potent at replenishing cellular hydration as the leading sports drinks.1 2

Fresh coconut water is a great natural alternative, because it is naturally high in electrolytes and potassium, without the high fructose corn syrup.  Of course, you should also drink plenty of water, as it is what the body is mostly made of; however, to replenish lost electrolytes from sweat, coconut water seems like a good, natural alternative.

Besides drinking plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day, you can stay hydrated by eating fruits and vegetables that have a natural high water content.  Watermelon is 92 percent water and ranks among the top water-rich foods available.  Start your day by eating watermelon for breakfast and it will do more than help keep you hydrated.

This delectable fruit is a good source of vitamins A, C and B, potassium and the powerful anti-oxidant lycopene, which supports prostate health. Watermelon also is lower in calories than other fruit, making chilled watermelon a great, nutrient-rich snack for your workouts.

One study looked at the effect of an electrolyte-rich meal plus water for restoring fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration.  The results showed that having water with the meal was more effective than using sports drinks alone in achieving the individual’s prior hydration status.3

Another great way to re-hydrate is to make a mineral broth using a variety of unpeeled, preferably organic vegetables, such as carrots, garlic cloves and sweet potatoes, along with Kombu, a dark brown sea vegetable rich in trace minerals available at natural food stores. Bring ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for two to four hours, adding water as needed.  Strain and add salt to taste.  Serve hot or cold.

Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City.

More from ecomii:

1. Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, Nawawi M.  Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water.  J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104.

2. Ismail I, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG. Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration.  Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2007 Jul;38(4):769-85.

3. Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, Shirreffs SM.  Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of food and fluid intake.  Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1996;73(3-4):317-25.

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An alternative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Marie Oser and her team of bloggers bring you creative natural solutions to issues affecting our health and wellbeing.

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