By Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, CSSD | Thursday, August 31, 2017
So many beverage choices for young (and old) swimmers on the market. How do you choose? Let’s rethink the drinks that many of you are asking about.
Non-dairy milks (almond, cashew, coconut, etc.): These beverages, I hesitate to use the word milk, as these are not milk by the formal definition, are not all they seem to be. Let’s be clear…. there is little to no protein in these drinks. Cow’s milk has 8 grams of protein in an 8-ounce glass, and some ultra-filtered cow’s milk (such as Fairlife) has 13 grams. Almond milk has 1 gram, and coconut milk has none. A good article on these milk alternatives can be found at mysportscience.com.
Energy drinks: Energy means calories, but energy drinks also contain stimulants, like caffeine, guarana, or kola nut. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children should not drink energy drinks. Period. Small amounts of caffeine are not a problem, but the whopping doses in energy drinks can raise heart rate and blood pressure in young and old alike. Caffeine is found in small amounts in some beverages, like tea and hot chocolate, and swimmers might also get some caffeine from soft drinks (both regular and diet), coffee-flavored ice cream or yogurt, chocolate, and bottle teas. Caffeine is limited in cola-type beverages to 0.02% or 71 mg/12 ounces; however, over >130 energy drink products exceed that limit, some having as much as 500 mg/serving.
Alkaline water: Our kidneys and lungs to a fine job of keeping the body’s pH in a tightly regulated, healthy zone. Don’t waste your money on alkaline water and don’t believe the hype that they are healthier than plain old water from your tap, a bottle, or filtered in your fridge. Some claim to prevent disease, but don’t fall for it. Here’s a link to an article on some of the claims for alkaline water.
Protein water: I’ve never met an athlete that didn’t get enough protein through his or her diet, even non-meat eating vegetarians get plenty of protein from soy, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and grains. Get your protein from real food, not bad-tasting, expensive protein waters.
Now that I’ve told you what not to spend your money on, what should you drink?
Water is best, but it can get boring. I have friend who makes “sparkling ginger water” to keep things interesting. Cut fresh ginger into slices and simmer in water with stevia leaves; strain and add to club soda or fizzy, sparkling water. If you live in an area where the tap water doesn’t taste good to you, try a pitcher filtering system to keep in your fridge.
Milk, the dairy kind. Low-fat chocolate milk is a great recovery beverage and fluid replacer. Milk, low-fat or 2%, is a protein-rich, bone-building drink for swimmers.
For hard workout days, or when exercising in hot, humid weather, use a sports drink, but alternate it with water.
And, while juice has calories and sugar, the sugar is naturally occurring in 100% fruit juice. Calcium-fortified orange juice is a good choice and, for athletes trying to gain weight, try 100% grape juice or tart cherry juice.
Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports nutrition, and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @chrisrosenbloom.