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Eat Smart. Play Hard. Do You Need a Sports Drink? (FN1440)

Sports drinks are recommended only to increase your physical performance if you are physically active for more than 60 to 90 minutes. Anything less, water should be the drink of choice because it’s better for hydration. Make sure to drink enough fluids before, during and after physical activity.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist

Shannon Medenwald, Program Assistant (former)


My Plate

Did you know that sports drinks first were designed for use by the University of Florida’s football team, the Gators, to prevent dehydration caused by hot weather and physical exertion? This is how the name “Gatorade” was created.

Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, Powerade and Allsport, contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and chloride. They are made for intense physical activity to help rehydrate and keep a person’s energy up. Are they really necessary for these benefits? Not always; you can get these same benefits from other, better sources.

Some better fluid choices include:

  • Milk
  • 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice
  • Water

Sports drinks are recommended only to increase your physical performance if you are physically active for more than 60 to 90 minutes. Anything less and water should be the drink of choice because it’s better for hydration. Make sure to drink enough fluids before, during and after physical activity.

  • Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because you already may be dehydrated at this point.
  • Drink fluids before, during and after physical activity. Drink 2 cups of fluids to replace every pound of body weight lost during physical activity.
  • Keep a bottle of water with you and take water breaks every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • If a sports drink is necessary, try making your own. It costs much less, doesn’t have as many additives and tastes just as good!

Homemade Sports Drink

4 Tbsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

¼ c. boiling water

¼ c. orange juice or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

3¾ c. cold water

In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water. Add the juice and cold water. Chill. Makes 1 quart.

Eat Smart. Play Hard. This website has information for parents and kids, including fun educational games and recipes.

“Eat Smart. Play Hard.” is an initiative of the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Materials were partially funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.



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