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Five Rehydration and Sport Beverage Red Flags

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Expert debunks myths, cites warning signs and offers science-based truths helping buyers beware bogus water & other rehydration/performance-focused beverage claims

It’s a brave new beverage world out there, and consumers are being romanced by a deluge of “healthy” drink solutions promising to keep them rehydrated, energized and performing at a high level. However, in truth, much of what’s being merchandised in this category is far more focused and adept at hype than hydration.

So, what’s a would-be consumer to do who’s thirsty for a truly viable rehydration, sports or performance-enhancing beverage solution, but doesn’t want to be duped by their drink of choice?

To answer this question and a plethora of other confusing issues rampant in the sports and rehydration drink industry, I connected with field expert James Mayo, co-founder of SOS Rehydrate, a company that’s developed a new, cutting-edge and healthy electrolyte replacement rehydration beverage engineered for those with active lifestyles. So impactful is his company’s solution, it proffers rehydration comparable to an I.V. drip to help people avoid and reverse mild to moderate dehydration.

Mayo doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s walked the walk…literally! As a former pro athlete of a caliber sponsored by a sports drink company, he still suffered dehydration and performance issues in relation. His brother, who is also a competitive athlete and with whom he co-founded the company, also suffered debilitating hydration—an actual collapse—that caused him to not make it onto a world championship team he’d set his sights on. This led the pair to begin formulating the most optimal, medical and science-driven formula on the market. Mayo’s military service in hot climates also factored into his passion for creating a best-in-class rehydration solution. Mayo personally experienced dehydration during deployments and saw other soldiers suffer the same. In fact, Mayo says dehydration is the number one non-combat casualty—a result of soldiers working in extreme climates at the edge of human performance, having to carry heavy gear and equipment and often marching for hours even before participating in actual combat. A recipe leaving soldiers exhausted and severely dehydrated, from Mayo’s first person accounts.

For those on the playing field, battle field or just seeking to improve their performance in their personal or professional lives, below are a few of Mayo’s myth-debunking “buyer beware” truths that’ll help shoppers steer clear of ineffective—or even harmful—rehydration and sports beverages in favor of those spurred by sound science.

  • Sugar is not an electrolyte. Why pay extra money for excess sugar when what you really need are electrolytes. In truth, only a very small amount of sugar is required to help transport electrolytes and water into the cells as part of the sodium glucose co-transport system. In fact, this system is most effective when it utilizes one molecule of sugar and one molecule of sodium in combination, which helps create the fastest and most effective way to transport water into the cells for hydration. Even water rehydration and other drinks that do actually claim to utilize the sodium glucose co-transport system have been shown to contain excess sugar to enhance taste, apparently discounting the fact that that this added sugar commensurately increases calorie count and actually undermines cellular H2O absorption.

    For clarity, sugar is a fuel and it’s a proven fact that it is not an electrolyte, so consumers seeking a maximized rehydration beverage should seek those with the minimum amount of sugar to help the body best absorb electrolytes and water. A glut of rehydration beverage brands on the market add excess sugar, don’t optimize the sodium-glucose co-transport system to make the drink sweeter, or both.

  • Excess sugar dehydrates and undermines energy. Beyond the above-stated concerns, too much sugar also leeches sodium and water from the body cells, which can cause dehydration. If there is excess sugar in a drink, even one engineered as a rehydration solution, then you can trigger reverse osmosis. The body’s reverse osmosis process occurs when there is an incorrect balance of sugar to sodium. Sodium always follows sugar and water always follows sodium. In a drink that is correctly balanced (utilizing the sodium glucose co-transport system) then the water and electrolytes optimally flow into the cells. In high sugar drinks there is too much sugar for the quantity of sodium and, as such, sodium and then water is actually leeched from the cells and passed out of the body as urine. This can lead to dehydration—the opposite effect for a rehydration beverage one has spent their hard-earned dollars to purchase.

    Not to be underestimated, dehydration is a physical state that, at any level, can undermine performance and physical outlay by significant percent—and also cause other unpleasant symptoms like headaches and tiredness. Hydration delivered through a correctly calibrated rehydration beverage regulates the bodies’ electrolyte and water balance, allowing it to maintain optimum performance levels and avoid the energy drops associated with energy and sports drinks.

  • Zero sugar is a bad thing. Drinks that only contain sodium do not absorb H2O as fast as drinks that contain a small amount of sugar. As mentioned above, the sodium glucose co-transport system relies on a specific ration of one molecule of sugar and one molecule of sodium to transport electrolytes and water effectively into the cells. Drinks that do not contain any sugar then need to rely on collecting glucose (sugar) throughout their journey within the gut. The salt-only drink will eventually get absorbed, but much slower than one that is perfectly balanced.

    Also, while it’s commendable that that major sports drinks manufacturers are finally attempting to tackle the excess sugar epidemic, but their “zero sugar” marketing strategy is c