Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter Cascao Vital. He runs Cascao Evolution BJJ out of Las Vegas nv.
Lets start out with the three main reasons we eat. Number one, we eat for our health. Number two, we eat for performance. Number three, we eat for the enjoyment. Now ideally we should be eating a diet that fits into all three of those categories at once. The problem is however, if not careful, you can easily just be eating for one category, and that will not help the majority of your goals. So the question here is, do modern sports drinks fit into all three categories or just one category for athletes? Lets analyze two of the top selling sports drinks, Gatorade and PowerAde.
The whole purpose of these sports drinks is to rehydrate you during and after an athletic performance while replacing the lost electrolytes from sweating and physical output. So we must compare electrolyte levels. As far as potassium is concerned, a medium banana has between 400-500mg, watermelon has almost 700mg while a potato has almost 1000 mg. If your looking for a liquid answer, coconut water contains about 571mg (Goya with pulp). Gatorade compares with 75mg and PowerAde with about 60mg of potassium. So for this electrolyte, the sport drinks finish dead last behind whole foods and a more natural nectar from coconuts.
Sodium is another electrolyte that needs replacing. PowerAde comes in with about 250mg, with Gatorade containing about 270mg. Coconut water has about 90mg, followed by whole food choices: 90mg for each egg and chicken unsalted has about 50-75mg of sodium. As far as sodium is concerned, whole foods with a little added salt is great but if you need sodium replacement during exercise, well the sports drinks are at the top of the list. You simply can’t digest whole grown foods well while exercising in general. For reference, we lose about 500mg of sodium per pound of sweat loss.
Other electrolytes lost during sweat are magnesium and calcium. Non existent in the sports drinks, and abundant in the whole food options like greens, legumes and nuts. Not to mention all of the supporting nutrients that come along with the electrolytes that also aid in recovery and performance.
We need electrolytes to maintain fluid balance, help with contractions of muscle tissue as well as essential neural activity. Without them our health and performance go down the tubes rapidly. Although sports drinks do offer a convenient package and flavor, the artificial chemicals, refined sugar and sub par electrolyte levels excluding sodium, make it a not so good option for performance or health. Do they do better compared with pure water during a sporting event? Sure it does, sugar replenishes the glycogen, and the electrolytes are far higher in them as well, but fruit can fill those voids. And compared to the whole food options not only containing sufficient amounts of electrolytes when salt is added, but they also provide the full spectrum of these charged ions, where as the sports drinks only focus on two. An important note to make is that when nutrients are put together in combinations, their synergy makes them far more effective then having them isolated. Most athletes choose the colorful bottles because they are sponsored by them or for the good taste. Lets start looking at all three aspects when we choose are fuel sources: enjoyment, performance and health. For BJJ, some fruit and coconut water is a great game plan for training day fuel and the whole grown foods for recovery.