Read these words and know that they are true, the honest to God truth: Gatorade makes my ability to ride 200+ miles a week and my fitness possible. Sure, I could drink something more expensive (Hammer Heed comes to mind, actually I have that too) or use Nuun tablets (oh wait, yep, got that too) but in the end, good old Gatorade does the trick just fine – and it doesn’t cost $2.00 per serving like the others, more like a buck a quart.
I let my girls drink Gatorade 3/4’s of the year during swimming season (fall to spring) or when they’re extra active too.
Recently a couple of overly concerned people cornered my wife when she spoke highly of Gatorade. See, we do that in my house because back in the day, Gatorade saved my bacon… so to speak. It was way back, the first time I started topping 100 miles a week on the bike. I was still triathlon training too (Olympic length), so I was running twice a week and throwing in a swim every now and again. My intensity was also on the increase. My speeds were increasing precipitously.
Then I hit a wall. Minutes per mile flat-lined then slid and I struggled mildly to hit times that were once easy. Then I noticed that my sweat didn’t taste salty anymore. I was on a fairly decent diet back then. I’d cut out all sugary drinks, almost all snacks and deserts and I was still ignorant when it came to salt… I was still under the mistaken impression that salt was bad too. Ah, those were the days. After that episode two things changed: I learned to be okay with salt and I started drinking Gatorade more regularly. Since, I haven’t had any performance issues. Later, during a checkup, I explained what I’d gone through with my doctor and asked his opinion. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), my doctors have all been active and the one I was seeing at the time recommended that I continue drinking Gatorade despite the sugar content, to keep my electrolyte balance right. His take was that I’d obviously burn off the little bit of sugar in Gatorade with the mileage I was putting in and that the sugar content of Gatorade was still a fraction that of a can of soda (or “pop” for those of us in the north). Interestingly enough, my wife had the exact same experience I did. She’s always been a straight “only water” girl until she started putting in the more impressive weekly miles. Put simply, she bonked. Once she started drinking a glass of Gatorade a day, her performance rebounded. It’s this simple: If you’re not one of those who counts a walk around the block as “exercise”, eventually you’re going to get to a place where electrolytes must be replaced.
Going back to my wife’s experience of being chastised for allowing our kids to drink Gatorade, she was asked if she was aware that after Coca-Cola bought Gatorade, they changed the ingredients and it doesn’t have any of the good stuff in it anymore.
Oh, where to start. Coke doesn’t own Gatorade. Coke owns PowerAde. Pepsi owns Gatorade. That mistake notwithstanding, the composition of Gatorade was changed in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s to high fructose corn syrup but has since been changed back to plain old table sugar and dextrose (the original sugar additive to the drink). Either way, for the active family it works. It tastes good so we don’t get complaining from the kids (including me), it actually replaces electrolytes where plain water dilutes the electrolytes that are left in the body, and are difficult to replace with food when we’re talking about with the exceptionally active lifestyle that our family enjoys. Not to mention, if we decide we’re blowing too many calories on the normal Gatorade we can always choose the G2 Natural which cuts some of the crap calories out.
Now, here’s how the ignorance, that I mentioned in the title, works. You’ve got overweight, inactive people telling fit, active people how to raise their kids based on incorrect information without knowing the back story for why we went to a sports drink in the first place. In my wife’s case, she was caught unawares and didn’t really put up much of a fight. I don’t blame her either as we’re not too used to having to defend our active lifestyle too often… I might have frozen a little bit myself, at least until I had time to look up the information on Gatorade, but that’s really the point. All too often any more, people who masquerade as the Intelligencia run around chastising us for being rubes beholden to the machine, when in fact they’re the dopes in first place.
It gets better too… Some people choose to misuse or overuse these specialty products which can cause health issues. After all, sugar is still sugar whether it’s fructose, sucrose (table sugar) or dextrose (a naturally occurring form of glucose), if you’re not burning it off, it’s going to cause problems eventually. Now you get politicians and bureaucrats involved in banning or legislating these things away so that we who lead an active lifestyle have to pay through the nose or suffer through limited access to these products… If that weren’t bad enough, and it is, then you’ve got corporate ass-kissers like Wal-Mart who join in the witch hunt (Jelly Belly Energy Beans) – and all based on misuse and false information about a product in the first place. It’s enough to make one’s head spin and the funny thing is that unless you actually take the time to look these things up to get the rest of the story, chances are you’d go along with the misinformation because it tends to make some sort of sense. Take the high fructose corn syrup vs. sucrose/dextrose in Gatorade – that even made sense to me until I looked it up to find it untrue. Of course, I suppose that’s the difference between me and a lot of other people… I’ll actually go to the trouble of looking things up.
This is just one of a number of instances that have turned me into a cynical skeptic when it comes to the next big dietary fad – or the witch hunt against something that I enjoy.
UPDATE: On a proofread of this post I decided I’d left that last sentence a little short… I’ll look the facts up on the subject of a witch hunt if I’m interested or if I’m actually willing to give the target food item up in the first place. They could find that bacon can cause Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke, and any number of gnarly maladies and I’d still roll the dice. Some shit, suffice it to say, just makes life a little more worth living, and bacon is one of those things. At the same time, they could find that broccoli can add ten years to your life and I’d never even bother. Some shit, suffice it to say, is better left to rabbits.