Put back what you take out. Life is a sport. Drink it up. Because Australians go harder. Sport is what you make it. We’ve all heard these types of slogans, given to us by sports drink companies. Their brands are slapped all over our sporting events, from the biggest competitions all the way through to tiny leagues in far-flung places. You’d be forgiven for thinking that sports drinks are the elixir of life, ready to get you back into the best condition, from their marketing. However, there are hidden dangers in consuming sports drinks, the biggest of which is tooth decay.
Sports drinks are generally placed into one of three categories: hypotonic, isotonic, or hypertonic drinks. A hypotonic sports drink will have less than 4g of sugar per 100ml and will have a low osmotic pressure. These type of drinks are designed to hydrate you more quickly than water after vigorous, short exercise bursts – like perhaps if you’re doing a Crossfit session. An isotonic drink contains about 4-8g of sugar per 100ml and has a medium osmotic pressure. An isotonic drink will both give energy or fuel to the body in the form as sugar, as well as hydrate, and is a drink for endurance athletes, like those playing a full game of AFL. Hypertonic drinks, on the other hand, contain more than 8g of sugar per 100ml and have a large osmotic pressure. These beverages are for people needing fuel for concentrating over an extended period – perhaps a very long drive.
Sports drinks are brilliant for true athletes, especially endurance athletes, to help them refuel over their chosen activity. However, if you aren’t exercising or working out then consuming these sports drinks can be quite detrimental to your health, and in particular, your dental health.
The important thing to realise here is that sports drinks all contain a certain amount of sugar – more sugar than water at the very least. They are also highly acidic, which can also cause tooth problems, leading to erosion of enamel of the teeth, causing irreversible tooth damage.
There have been numerous recent studies on the topic recently, including one of 12-14yr olds who are drinking sports drinks socially, without exercise, and UK footballers, and the dental problems with both adults and children that have been resultant.
Sports drinks, when consumed when not playing sports, are about as bad for you are drinking soft drinks. Just because they are labelled as sports drinks does not mean that they are good for you. That delicious taste is actually because they are full of sugar and full of acidity.
What all this means is that you should avoid sports drinks unless you are involved in strenuous exercise, and even then you should consider whether this is really the best option – as demonstrated by the tooth problems that are apparent in professional UK footballers. Even though the product is good to help them keep playing, the acidity in the product can create a lot of problems down the track.
For better dental health, if you are exercising you might like to consider different sources of fuel, ones that aren’t as sugary or as acidic, and using water instead to hydrate. If you want to keep your teeth in the best shape, then it pays to avoid sports drinks altogether. Forget the marketing hype and do your own research with a nutritionist to understand the best source of fuel for your workout and the best way to stay hydrated throughout. You have your teeth for life, so unless you want expensive dental work further on down the track, it pays to take care of them.