It’s summer at last, following a particularly long and unrelenting winter. It grinds you down until a general hopelessness sets in that spring will never arrive.
A Phoenix newspaper reported recently that 17 dogs died of heat stroke in a local pet hotel. Apparently one dog chewed into a wall, cutting the power to the air conditioner. In the desert, summer heat must be taken quite seriously.
Summer has definitely arrived, which means it’s the perfect time to discuss hydration.
Given the proliferation of the so-called science of hydration, one would expect only a Ph.D. could make an intelligent buying decision in the beverage isle at the local grocery store.
Do not underestimate the genius of the human body. The fluids in your body are very closely monitored, and the kidneys have a rather broad operating range to make the most out of almost any drink, because they are mostly water.
Since it is hard to sell mostly plain water, other alternatives come in a lot of colors with a variety of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and salts. And the appeal of these drinks are enhanced by some clever bottle shapes and contraptions.
Gatorade was the original mostly water-based sports drink. It initially came in powder, one flavor (lemon lime), and you had to add the water. It was a simple mixture of sugar, salt, artificial color and flavor.
It was the brainchild of several scientists at the University of Florida (the Gators) College of Medicine, who were asked by the football coach to make a rehydration beverage. It was originally going to be called Gator-Aid, but the inventors thought the “Aid” would trigger FDA scrutiny and require scientifically validated testing.
Gatorade was intended for a different commercial direction where outlandish beverage claims were tolerated (“Open Happiness”…). If you are not doing heavy exercise in the Florida heat, you can plan on an extra 3.5 pounds per year from drinking Gatorade daily.
In case you didn’t know, Gatorade is a PepsiCo product and has 70 percent of the sports drink market in the U.S.
Following Gatorade, vitamin-charged drinks were the next wave of performance water. And while in 25 years of medicine I have never diagnosed a single case of scurvy, pellagra, beriberi or rickets, the country is no doubt fractionally safer from these scourges.
Excess vitamins, with very few exceptions, have no proven benefit to your health. For the record, breakfast cereals have been vitamin fortified since Tony the Tiger (of course he and Frosted Flakes are great! – he’s a cartoon).
And now there are cleverly designed bottles with the dry vitamin powder in a container at the top. Give it a twist, shake, and the result is a freshly-made vitamin fortified super drink. For pure placebo effect, this is hard to beat.
Is there good science behind these drinks actually increasing performance – no.
But if slightly modified, these mostly water beverages can sell as sports drinks – think of the potential, and they have! The list includes morning drinks, calming drinks, energizing drinks, drinks that make you smarter, stronger, braver and just a better human being.
And if it were that easy, I would say “sign me up.” I could sleep in, buy a selection of hi-tech beverages and live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, you actually have to do the work, which means you need to sweat.
My favorite rehydration drink is an inch of OJ in a big glass of ice water. It’s low in calories, thirst quenching, tastes pretty good, is almost free, and most importantly – it’s mostly water.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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