The Truth of the Trend

Research has shown that training the nervous system with Olympic lifting, plyometrics, or any type of explosive high intensity training can be beneficial to the athlete when done correctly. There is much debate on the subject of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue and whether it is a real phenomenon or a false naming of adrenal fatigue, muscle fatigue, etc. Whether or not CNS fatigue truly exists or is being named correctly is beside the point. The fact is that explosive exercises with weight such a Olympic lifting place very high demands on all systems of the body and carry serious risk of injury if not learned and practiced properly.

Olympic weightlifting requires a high level of understanding and skill. Research suggests that the optimal number for training the nervous system is 1-3 repetitions with a rest period of 6 minutes between sets. In addition, ATP is only present for 6-8 seconds which is about 3-5 reps before needing at least 2-3 min of recovery. Once ATP runs out the lifts will become compromised because the muscle does not have the energy to elicit the contraction the nerve is demanding. Anything beyond said rep range starts to overload the joint because form is compromised. Since these methods are designed to tax the central nervous system it does not make sense to try to change them into strength and endurance movements for high reps. Despite the research and proven science, many mainstream programs will suggest doing a set of anywhere from 10-20 repetitions or even do as many reps as possible in a 30-60 second window. Using these methods for endurance is like telling a sprinter to sprint through marathons for training.

Another issue is that these methods require a very high level of motor control. Proper movement patterns need to be practiced without resistance at a low level until the client shows proficiency in the movement. Of all the lifting methods, Olympic lifting is the most difficult to master because of the required flexibility and motor control for explosive movements with heavy weights to get the max benefit. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and can take years to learn. From our experience it takes the average person 4-6 months just to be able to get into the positions required to properly perform the movements. Once they can move it can take another 6-12 months to actually learn how to correctly do the lifts with weights. Olympic lifting is a professional sport yet everyone thinks they can do it without training. Even professional athletes should be cautious because the lifts were not designed for football, soccer or tennis, but instead for Olympic lifting.

Athletes should integrate Olympic style lifts into their strength and conditioning programs to reap the benefits of these movements but not duplicate them exactly. I suggest that most athletes train from the power position. This is called the hang (bar just below knees) since that is what most sports require. If a super elite athlete wants to learn the full lifts, it should be determined by a very high level coach.

Most courses that teach this method are 2-4 days, after which a certification is received and one is allowed to teach the lifts. Since we all agree Olympic lifting is just like basketball or any other pro sport, how is that possible? One cannot learn basketball in 2-4 days, let alone teach it, right? The answer seems obvious, yet people still spend millions on extreme home training videos and going to training facilities to do trendy high intensity programs that make no scientific sense.

The videos are the most dangerous, in our opinion. Any professional knows you cannot learn plyometrics by watching a video, and that the average person does not have the knowledge of the basic physical requirements and proper progressions. The science behind plyometrics is similar to Olympic lifting and should not be done for high repetitions either. The sad truth is that a majority of programs break the laws of proven science and safety, but their obvious flaws are overshadowed by attractive instructors, celebrity endorsements, extreme marketing tactics and industry politics. These companies are commendable, in a way, because the business intellect required to achieve such enormous revenue is impressive and there are some very good components in many of these programs. The main issues with these programs are that the parts that are wrong are so wrong it negates any of the positive aspects.

So the big question we get is  “why do they work if they are wrong?”

The fact is that if you do anything consistently and intensely while eating well you will obtain results. If you were to move bricks from one side of the yard to another for two hours a day with a 15 minute jog every 30 minutes for two months, you can be assured there will be fat loss and muscle growth. This is especially true for people who have never exercised or have done very little. So does that make it right? This sounds crazy but one of the best NFL receivers of all time, Jerry Rice, did just that growing up. He played a lot better when he started training like a football player instead of moving bricks.

Why doesn’t everyone get hurt? I know a guy who has been doing that stuff for years! Well, there are people who smoke until they are 90 and have no issues while others who never smoke die of lung cancer at 40 years old. In most cases smokers will develop health problems before 85, but there are always the exceptions. Everyone is different. There are countless variables that contribute to our physical constitutions and what our bodies can handle before we break down including genetics, nutrition and mental/emotional patterns, just to name a few. Some people are born athletes and can tolerate these programs because they have a natural ability to perform most plyometrics correctly and are strong and flexible enough to weather the storm of poor training.

Are all cookie cutter programs bad? No. There are some great instructors out there who can run programs that follow science and elicit even better results. This article is meant to educate you and serve as the WARNING LABEL. This is not meant as an attack on any particular company or program. It is simply meant to provide information based on common sense and science so that better results can be achieved safely.

 

 

References:

Bompa, T. (2005) Periodisation Training for sports. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics (taken from  http://www.brianmac.co.uk/cns.htm#ref)

Peinado AB, Rojo JJ, Calderón FJ, Maffulli N.

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Apr 24;6:17. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-17. eCollection 2014. Review.

 

 

Why Your Workouts May Not Be Working

Have you been exercising & not seeing the results you’re expecting? Have you developed pain or made an already painful condition worse with exercises that were supposed to help? Have you been told by a trainer or physical therapist that your glutes are not firing or that you have poor balance and you just can’t seem to correct the problem?

These are very common issues that I hear about in my practice which can have multiple causes. The first thing to examine the program itself – what exercises are being done and are they even appropriate for the individual, based on their health history and present condition. I often see people doing exercises that they should definitely not be doing because they are harmful and will cause injury. Unfortunately, I also see many trainers and specialists prescribing these same exercises.

The second thing to examine is form to determine if the exercises are being done properly. A good exercise, if done incorrectly, can also be a bad exercise. Always be meticulous with form. The purpose of exercise should be to improve our health, whether the goal is increasing strength and endurance, rehabilitating tissue, or correcting movement patterns.

The above are very obvious reasons and should always be ruled out first. However, if the exercises are appropriate & being done with correct form but the issue is still present, there may be another less obvious culprit. This hidden hijacker of a good workout results could be fascial tension.

You may have heard of fascia recently, as it getting more attention due to research. Fascia is connective tissue that literally wraps and connects every structure in the body. To visualize this, imagine removing every organ, muscle, and bone. If we were to leave all the fascia intact, we would have a 3D outline of the entire body – a completely continuous web.

Fascia transmits energy and force, in addition to holding everything together. We often think of muscles contracting independently to perform an action. For example, flexing our elbow we attribute to the biceps and brachialis muscles. But in reality, it is much more than that. Tension is created throughout the entire arm and shoulder, into the trunk and down to the hand through fascial connection. Other muscles are also performing at different levels in order to stabilize the arm. So really, everything is working, but at different levels of intensity.

We often think of muscle contraction generating force in the tendons (which attach the muscles to bones) in order to produce a movement. Studies have recently demonstrated that only 70% of the generated force of a muscle contraction is transmitted to the tendons. The other 30% is transmitted outward to the fascia surrounding the muscle by way of attachments along its entire length. Because fascia is completely continuous throughout the body, this force is transmitted to other muscles and structures. This shows that when a muscle acts, it is doing much more than its attributed movement. It is communicating with and working in conjunction with other muscles along a line.

Fascia is also a sensory organ. Another recent discovery is that there there are more sensory nerve endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle. These nerve endings provide information to the brain and spinal cord about position, tension/stretch and pressure – a sense of where we are in space and what is happening to keep us there. Keep in mind that most of this is happening without us even realizing it.

Fascia is made up of different layers that need to slide over each other in order for movement to happen, and in order to have accurate information exchange with the nervous system. If there is restriction of this sliding, usually due to a densification of hyaluronic acid, the substance that lubricates the fascial layers, overall movement can become restricted. Muscle activity can become inhibited due to the lack of efficient communication through the nerve endings that live in the altered fascia.

The densifications causing this altered function can be a result of old trauma/injuries, surgeries, scars or repetitive strain. For example, an old ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly may subtly cause dysfunction either locally in the foot/ankle, or above in the knee, hip, pelvis or even in the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. These densifications may be difficult to detect because they are often found in different areas than where the symptoms manifest. In this case it would be helpful to be evaluated by a professional who understands this process to properly determine the dysfunction and correct it.

Fascial Manipulation is a diagnostic and treatment system developed by the Stecco family in Italy. It sees the body as an interconnected network of points along the fascia that make up different motion planes. The points are centers of coordination for underlying muscles. Interestingly, many of these are also acupuncture points. Densification, or dysfunction, in these points can alter the muscle activity. Fascial Manipulation practitioners find these areas of densification and remove them through a very specific, deep massage technique. When normal sliding is restored to these points, or centers of coordination, very often pain is relieved and muscles function much more effectively with less stress. It is worth noting that Fascial Manipulation has the most scientific research behind it than any other manual soft tissue technique.

Freed movement in the fascial planes leads to normal coordination of muscle activation. This can allow workout results to be more consistent with the targeted actions of exercise and desired goals. If you feel you are not getting the most out of your workout and you know you are doing the proper exercises with good form, consider a fascial evaluation.

Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac, CCSP

Squash Program

The training of athletes, squash players in particular, require a multidimensional approach. This includes strength and conditioning training as well as the sound principles of injury prevention.  Squash is a sport which requires a lot of repetitive movements and full range of motion in every joint. The goal of this program is to discuss proper biomechanics, the importance of flexibility, outline proper training techniques, and discuss how nutrition affects performance.

Biomechanical Evaluation

It is important to evaluate the body as a whole to detect weakness and any joint dysfunction. To avoid overuse injuries screening for muscle imbalances is an extremely important part of any training program. The rationale behind it is that there are detectable and correctable abnormalities of muscle strength and length.  These imbalances can affect basic movement patterns such as running or swinging a racket and lead to unexplained musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.  Once detected, a specific functional rehabilitation program can be implemented.  This can include but is not limited to soft tissue release, corrective exercises, core strengthening through tri-planar movements, and balance and flexibility training. Our focus is on restoring function and stability by correcting irregular muscle patterns and treating the body as a whole.

Flexibility

Flexibility and balance are the two most important concepts to build a solid foundation.  Moving incorrectly will hinder the body’s ability to create maximal force which will undoubtedly affect your game and workout. Repetitive incorrect movements actually shut muscles off and create synergistic dominance, reciprocal inhibition and altered neurological pathways which will greatly inhibit your form. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), active and dynamic stretching should be part of your program. We find that most athletes move incorrectly due to poor flexibility and balance. Most squash players have very tight hips, shoulders and pecs. You need to stretch just about every day especially after a match or practice. If you do not stretch you will have a short lived career riddled with injuries.

Core Training

Core training needs to be specific to squash and should include balance and proprioceptive exercises. Sit-ups, bicycle crunches, and leg raises should be eliminated totally from a squash program. According to research, these types of exercises further tighten the hips which are already prone to tightness. These floor exercises also put tremendous torque on the spine irritating disks and do not recruit as many abdominal muscles as you might think. Athletes do not play squash lying down on their back, so why train that way.

Training should include core stabilization and tri-planar exercises, which mimic movements specific to squash.  Training with medicine balls and using chopping motions with balance devices are a much better idea.  The core is the center of all movement so it should be trained in a way that is optimal for each individual.  Building a strong core creates a solid base for supporting your body through specific movements.   A weak core will increase the risk of injury and can lead to loss of power on the court. You need to set up the training environment that challenges balance and proprioception specific for squash players. Implementing cuing exercises will improve motor skills and promote proper movement patterns.

Poor balance and flexibility create wasted movements and will inhibit the body’s ability to decelerate properly and change direction explosively.

Strength and Power Training

This is the most overlooked aspect. All athletes can benefit from strength training and should do at least 2 days a week, even during their respective seasons. The exercises should relate directly to squash and incorporate full body movements targeting weak links. You should be training using multi-sets, mixing resistance with endurance training. It is crucial to train at a high velocity since squash is a fast sport.

You need to establish core strength and proper movement patterns before moving onto plyometrics and explosive exercises. Plyometrics should be added only after a full body movement analysis is performed. All too often, athletes perform plyos without being able to move properly.

Endurance training

All of your cardio and endurance training should be on court, since that is where you perform. Running 5 miles is of no use to a squash player, since the court is only 32×21. Interval training should be the staple of your program. For example, set up cones on a squash court or measured area and have athletes run to the cones and explosively change direction while rotating. It would not be a bad idea to do a 30-40 min weight session and then play a practice game. This method, called pre-exhaustion, can be effective for endurance strength because in a real game you are never doing prior weight training.

Riding a bike doesn’t make you better on court either. It is an acceptable exercise for a cool down or an infrequent change of pace but should by no means be substituted for court work. You stand during squash so why sit when you train? You should not even sit between points.

You should be training according to time. The average match is about 45 – 60 min but can be up to 90 min with short rests of 10-15 sec between points and 90 sec between games. A boys point is about 30-50 sec and a girls is about 20-30 sec. If you play multiple opponents you have about 90-120 min rest. So, it is important to train in the same time frames that the game demands. Would it make sense for a boxer to train 2 min rounds and 1 min rest, when a round is 3 min with 1 min rests or to only do 2 or 3 rounds in training sessions? You need to predominately tax the anaerobic and lactic energy systems. Running and most cardio is aerobic so training that way limits carryover greatly. Research proves that too much aerobic activity is actually detrimental to sports training.

Nutrition

This is the absolute most important aspect to any training program. Poor nutrition will hinder performance no matter what sport you play.

  • Water
  • Calcium/Potassium/Magnesium
  • Pre workout carb loading facts
  • Pre game carb loading facts
  • Restoring glycogen stores after a match or workout
  • Importance of multiple meals
  • Use of supplements
  • Use of BCAAs during long matches

Recovery between multiple games

You will get about 2 hrs rest. During this time, you need to stretch and rehydrate with carbs to replenish glycogen stores and some protein (BCAA). Gatorade in any form is not recommended, drink something with natural electrolytes and carbs. Zico makes coconut water, which has more potassium than 10 bottles of Gatorade. An organic protein bar or some type of easily digested form and fruit is also a good idea for long days.

Rest

It is necessary to rest. Working out is not good for you every day regardless of how it is done. The body needs to recover, more is not better. Over doing things leads to injury and only hampers results.

 

 

 

Foam Rolling

Foam rollers have become very popular in gyms as they can be used for all fitness levels for training and recovery. However, many people don’t know the correct way to foam roll or the reasons why they are beneficial. Foam rolling is self-myofascial release, which is a method of self-massage that releases tight muscles and knots (trigger points). The goal is to release the muscles in order to increase elasticity for proper functioning, to improve flexibility, and to reduce inflammation.

Muscles are surrounded by fibrous connective tissue called fascia. Over time, individuals may develop painful points along the muscle and fascia due to trauma from injury, scar tissue, or structural imbalances. These trigger points can shorten the muscle, restrict blood flow to the muscle, and restrict mobility, which causes inflammation and pain and inhibits motion. This can lead to additional problems with posture, joint alignment, neuromuscular transmission, and exercise form, all of which make the body more vulnerable to injury. Further, the surrounding muscles then have to compensate for the weakened areas and may become strained due to overuse. Foam rolling helps the fascia stay mobile, and removing the knots enables exercises to be more effective so that structural balance and joint stability is restored, flexibility is increased, and stress on the surrounding muscles is decreased.

When our muscles are tight, we are often uncomfortable and display poor movement patterns. Our muscles can become tight for a variety of reasons ranging from poor posture, poor flexibility, training, hydration status, stress, sleep, etc. The idea behind foam rolling is to break up muscle knots, prevent knots from developing and create normal blood flow and nerve function back to the area. This decreases recovery time after a workout and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally, a greater range of motion allows for more effective workouts since there are no muscular restrictions. The ideal time to use a foam roller is before your workout as it will increase range of motion and bring blood to the tissues. In addition to foam rollers, tennis balls, golf balls and lacrosse balls can be used to break up muscle adhesions.

When foam rolling tight muscles, you will frequently feel pain which may radiate to another area. This pain should be uncomfortable, but certainly not unbearable. You can foam roll any muscle in your body by using moderate pressure and your bodyweight. When you locate tight/painful areas, you should concentrate on rolling those areas slowly, letting the muscle relax. If the pain is too intense, roll the surrounding areas instead and slowly work your way into the painful area. Do not overwork knots or painful areas, as this may damage the tissue. Avoid rolling bones or joints. Roll slowly. Make sure your form and posture is correct. Using a personal trainer to guide you will ensure that you do not cause more damage and will reach the muscle in the most effective way.

Not only are foam rollers beneficial for muscles, but they are also brain exercisers since the brain and nervous system need to be retrained to correct faulty movement patterns. The use of foam rollers requires complete concentration since they are unstable. Unstable exercises also improve proprioception and challenge core muscles.

Overall, foam rollers are a great tool that should be used by everyone in the gym, no matter their fitness level, to enhance their workout and prevent injury.

To see videos on how to foam roll properly, head to our video category & check them out!

Strength Training for Children

Strength training offers many benefits but did you know it can offer benefits to that of children and adolescents as well? Strength training is a type of exercise and conditioning that focuses on the use of resistance to build strength, endurance, and size of the skeletal muscles1.  When done properly, strength training can improve sports performance, protect against sports-related injuries, increase muscular strength and endurance, strengthen bones, promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, improve self-esteem, and help children maintain a healthy weight2.

There seems to be controversy with the proper age a child should be to begin strength training program and whether or not lifting weights is appropriate.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Sports Medicine  (ACSM) and the National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA) all support strength training for kids.  In fact, AAP stated that “appropriate strength-training programs have no apparent adverse effect on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system2.”

According to Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, a renowned pediatric exercise scientist, there are many common myths that surround strength training.  The first is that strength training will stunt the growth of children. However, research does not support this myth and does not show decreased stature in children that engage in resistance exercise regularly.  Instead, this type of exercise has a positive effect on bone growth and development.  The second myth is that strength training is unsafe for children.  Actually, the risks of training are no greater than any other activity as long as there is qualified supervision and a safe training environment.  The third myth is that children cannot increase strength because they do not have enough testosterone.  However, testosterone is not needed to achieve strength gains, which is evidenced by strength gains in women and the elderly.  The last myth is that strength training is only for young athletes.  As discussed, strength training has a wide range of benefits and therefore is valuable to all boys and girls, whether involved in sports or not3.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics position on strength training supports the implementation of strength and resistance training programs, even for prepubescent children, that are monitored by well-trained adults and take into account the child’s maturation level.  The only limitation the AAP suggests is to avoid repetitive maximal lifts (lifts that are one repetition maximum lifts or are within 2-3 repetitions of a one repetition maximum lift) until they have reached Tanner Stage 5 of developmental maturity.  Tanner Stage 5 is the level in which visible secondary sex characteristics have been developed.  Usually, in this stage adolescents will also have passed their period of maximal velocity of height growth.  The AAP’s concern that children wait until this stage to perform maximal lifts is that the epiphyses, commonly called “growth plates”, are still very vulnerable to injury before this developmental stage. It is repeated injury to these growth plates that may hinder growth4.”

The NSCA offers these guidelines for strength-training programs:

  • An instructor-to-child ratio of at least 1 to 10 is recommended.
  • The instructor should have experience with kids and strength training.
  • When teaching a new exercise, the trainer should have kids perform the exercise under his or her supervision in a hazard-free, well-lit, and adequately ventilated environment.
  • Calisthenics and stretching exercises should be performed before and after strength training.
  • Kids should begin with one set of 8 to 15 repetitions of 6 to 8 exercises that focus on the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.
  • Kids should start with no load (resistance). When proper technique is mastered, a relatively light weight can be used with a high number of repetitions. Increase the weight as strength improves. Progression can also be achieved by increasing the number of sets (up to three) or types of exercises.
  • Two to three training sessions per week on nonconsecutive days is sufficient.

It’s important to remember that strength training should be one part of a total fitness program. It can play a vital role in keeping your child healthy and fit, along with aerobic exercise such as biking and running, which keeps the heart and lungs in shape5.

It is important to note that children should have a strong basic exercise foundation and have efficient movement patterns in order to develop strength and flexibility.  An ideal age to start strength training is 7-8 years old because balance and postural control skills have matured to adult levels.  Proper form, technique, and safety are keys to success, and therefore explosive and rapid lifting is not recommended because it is difficult to maintain proper form and perform exercises safely, which may stress body tissues2.

As for as sports specific training, a child athlete must master the basics, such as strength, balance, power, coordination and visual perception in order to improve athleticism. .   You cannot solely train specific skill, like throwing or swinging, for a specific sport.  The key is to improve strength, power, flexibility and speed through efficient movement patterns.  After a child become proficient in the basic skills, more specific skills can be introduced.  It is important to remember that flexibility is the key to preventing injury and stretching should not be neglected6.

In conclusion, strength training is safe for children and adolescents and should be incorporated into their exercise routine to increase both physical and mental performance.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training
  2. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  3. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  4. http://www.strongkid.com/uploads/Myths.pdf
  5. http://www.protraineronline.com/exercise/strength-training-for-childrena-review-of-research-literature/
  6. http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/staying_fit/strength_training.html#
  7. http://www.todddurkin.com/the-best-exercises-for-youth-athletes/

Weighted Vests

Gyms and fitness centers are loaded with machines and equipment. There are balls, bars, free weights, balance discs, and all sorts of gadgets for the exerciser to choose from.  Sometimes it is hard to know the benefits of using one piece of equipment over another.  Weighted vests are tools that have become popular for a variety of fitness activities.  However, many people are not sure how or why to use weighted vests.

Weighted vests are heavy vests worn over the torso, which have varying amounts of resistance.  The most common weights are 20 pounds and 50 pounds.  The purpose of a weighted vest is to increase the intensity of a workout.  Since more weight is added to the body, the body is forced to work harder. This causes increased muscle mass and fat burning.  Vests are versatile; they can be used for resistance training, weight loss, cardio benefits, and variation.

For starters, vests can supplement resistance training and increase performance. Resistance exercise, or strength training, increases the strength and mass of muscles. This was demonstrated by a research study at Texas Tech University, where a group of athletes wearing vests were compared to those not wearing vests. They found that the group wearing vests had substantially better results with their resistance training .

Next, weighted vests intensify aerobic workouts. This increases the number of calories burned and promotes weight loss.  A study in The European Journal of Applied Physiology showed this increased cardio effect by looking at a group of distance runners wearing a 50lb weighted versus those without added weight.  Those wearing the vest, had improvements in their VO2 max and lactate thresholds, both of which affect endurance exercise.

Further, using a vest can change up an exercise routine.  Our bodies adapt to the same patterns of movement and it becomes harder to see a change when we repeatedly do the same exercises in the same routine.  By wearing a vest, we provide variation to our normal routine.  This will challenge our bodies so that we can continue to see results.

Another benefit from exercising with a vest is improved bone density.  Several small studies show that the extra load from a weighted vest can help build bones.  One four-year study on postmenopausal women showed increased bone density when a weighted vest was used during stair climbing.

Weighted vests have many benefits, but it is important to remember they should be used in moderation. When first wearing a vest, a low amount of weight should be used and it should never exceed more than 20% of an individual’s body weight.  Too much weight may negatively affect the joints, muscles, and bones.  It should also be worn tightly secured to the body, to avoid any additional strain.  An individual may experience back pain if it isn’t strapped on properly or if the weight is not distributed evenly.  When wearing a weighted vest, the force upon landing is greater, which increases the risk of impact-related joint injury.  Also, flexibility is limited because the vest constricts some types of movements.  Lastly, there is a potential for overheating since the vest covers a large area of the body.

While there are many reasons to try using a weighted vest during a workout, it is important to remember that weighted vests are not for everyone.  A doctor or personal trainer should be consulted before it is added to any exercise routine.

The Negative Effects of Gatorade

Gatorade has long been a popular sports drink, especially for kids, and is marketed as an electrolyte replacement drink for athletes.  Electrolytes are substances that contain free ions and conduct electricity1.  In the human body, electrolytes are responsible for regulating nerve and muscle function, blood pH, hydration, blood pressure, and damaged tissue repair1.  Some examples of electrolytes that are in our bodies are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride1.  The levels of electrolytes in our blood change when water levels in our body change.  When we sweat, we lose mostly sodium and potassium, which must be replaced in order to maintain the proper balance in our bodies1.  According to ACSM, two pounds of sweat contains an average of 800mg of sodium (ranges between 200-1600mg) and 200mg of potassium (ranges between 120—600mg)2.

Gatorade has three different lines of sports drinks: G2, Gatorade Protein Recover, and Gatorade Thirst Quencher.  All Gatorade products have a list of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce, with many of these ingredients being forms of sugar or artificial sweeteners.  In fact, sugar is the second ingredient after water which means that Gatorade products are comprised mostly of sugar and water.  In fact, Gatorade Thirst Quencher has a whopping 14g of sugar, coming mostly from sucrose syrup and glucose-fructose syrup. “The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars.  For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men)3.”   This is about 24g of sugar for women and 36g of sugar for men.

Excessive sugar in the diet can be very bad for your health. It is important to try to limit the amount of added sugar in your diet.  Sugar that is naturally occurring in fruit and milk is perfectly fine however it is the added sugars that need to be decreased.  Consumers need to beware because sugars are hidden in many different kinds of foods, such as salad dressings and crackers4.

One negative consequence of excessive sugar intake is weight gain and obesity.  Sugar is very calorie dense, and as stated before, it is added to numerous foods and drinks4. Additionally, eating a lot of sugary foods displaces more nutritious foods in the diet. These foods don’t provide the same satiety as healthful foods and therefore, cause overeating4.  A second issue with added sugars is that they increase the risk for higher triglycerides, lower HDL, and higher HDL, which contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease4. Lastly, sugar contributes to tooth decay4.

The G2 line of Gatorade has fewer calories and less sugar but it does contain sugar alcohols.  Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener5 that provides fewer calories than regular sugar.  They do increase blood sugar levels but less dramatically than that of regular sugar5.  On a positive note, they do not cause tooth decay. Sugar alcohols can have some negative GI side effects though, such as bloating and diarrhea6

Another huge problem with Gatorade is the amount of food additives and colorings added to the products.  For example, one additive is monopotassium phosphate, which is not only used as a food additive, but also a as a fertilizer and fungicide7.  It is a bit scary to be ingesting an ingredient used to fertilize plants.  Additionally, some flavors of Gatorade contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a food additive used as an emulsifier in drinks with citrus flavoring10.  Bromine – part of BVO – is an element found in flame retardants9!  Some research shows that it may build up in the body leading to thyroid problems, memory loss, and skin and nerve problems9.  It has been banned in Japan and Europe10.  In January 2013, Pepsico announced they had plans to remove BVO from Gatorade; however, there are no current plans to remove it from Mountain Dew10.

Gatorade is also filled with many food coloring, such as blue 1 and red 40.  Many studies have showed a link between children and hyperactivity due to food additives11.  In fact, 35 years of research has shown that many children with ADHD show significant improvement in their symptoms when they eliminate artificial food colors from their diet12.

Many popular athletes endorse Gatorade and some may actually use it to replace electrolytes during sporting events and training.  Gatorade isn’t completely bad; it does replace sodium and potassium and help restore electrolyte balance and hydration status.  Athletes are paid to endorse products, but many do not do their due diligence to find better and healthier alternatives.

A Better Alternative:

If you are looking for an electrolyte replacement drink, there are better alternatives available.  Thorne Performance, a line of supplements geared towards athletes and their needs, has created, Catalyte, an electrolyte and energy restoration complex.  Catalyte is all-natural and does not contain calories, sugar, additives, or caffeine. It is also gluten and soy free.  Catalyte comes in a lemon lime flavor and the product is easy to mix.  In fact, the Catalyte powder formula contains vitamins and minerals that, when mixed with pure water, makes a tasty electrolyte supplement that helps repair and rebuild muscle.

References:

  1. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php
  2. sportsmd.com/SportsMD_Articles/id/395.aspx
  3. http://www.rivercityraces.com/files/user/Electrolyte_Replacement.pdf
  4. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Sugar_UCM_306725_Article.jsp
  5. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sugar-alcohols.html
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_alcohol
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopotassium_phosphate
  8. http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/2323-sugar-bad.html
  9. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bvo/AN02200
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brominated_vegetable_oil
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22864801
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21127082