Media’s role in a National Epidemic
The American love for sports is a love like no other. Children idolize athletes and aim to become a professional someday. Many children become completely absorbed into the world of professional sports, wearing the same clothing as professionals, acting like these professionals not only on the field but also off the field, and consuming the same foods and beverages that these athletes are thought to consume. What many children and families do not realize is that athletes are paid large amounts of money to be a spokesperson for big companies such as Gatorade and Nike, even if they don’t particularly like the brand. One industry that thrives from this idolization is the industry of sports drinks, like Gatorade and PowerAde, which was projected to reach 2 billion dollars in 2016. Americans cannot get enough of these products and are led to believe they are good for them because these athletes use them. In an article written by Andrea Cespedes that was published on the Livestrong Foundation website she states “Americans certainly seem convinced these hydration drinks offer plenty of benefits.” While Americans are not wrong, these drinks do have some beneficial factors. Unfortunately they are full of negative factors and the positive factors are only beneficial to a small percentage of people.
Cespedes defines sports drinks to be “artificially flavored water containing added electrolytes.” Americans are aware that electrolytes are essential when it comes to working out. Electrolytes are minerals that you lose when sweating and help with proper muscle function and they need to be replaced after exercise, which is why it is essential to consume when working out and exercising. When Americans found out what electrolytes were and why they are needed, they then assumed that the only answer on how to recover from sweeting and working out is the consumption of sports drinks. By this definition, sports drinks are ultimately considered mineral enhanced and flavored water not posing any health threats. Cespedes also talks about how sports drinks are a great source of carbohydrates that can be quickly absorbed and turned into fuel, ready immediately after exercise lasting around 90 minutes. She also states in her piece that the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition showed “in 2014 that these drinks enhanced the body’s ability to break down carbs during exercise and can enhance exercise.” Cespedes also discusses how these drinks can work as pre-workout energy boost if you haven’t eaten prior to a workout and how they are essential after a workout to prepare for the next workout scheduled. All of these statements lead Americans to think that anyone that exercises should consume these beverages as they are good for them, however this is untrue as most Americans do not exercise to the extent and intensity needed to consume these drinks. In result of Americans reading an article like this, the assumption that as long as you exercise for an hour to an hour and a half consuming sports drinks are good for you. What comes as a result of that thought process is children constantly consuming sports drinks as most of their sports last at least an hour and these children push to consume these beverages as their favorite athletes do as well. What Americans are not made aware of is the amount of negative impacts these drinks can have if consumption is made by people who are not exercising to the extremes needed to lose all those electrolytes and carbs.
The biggest problem of these ‘oh so famous’ sports drinks is that they fall in the same category as sugary drinks, such as fruit punch and red bull, and the consumption of sugar drinks is a key factor in the nationwide epidemic of childhood obesity. For many the idea that these sports drinks that are supposed to be good for you, are actually full of sugar and are bad for you seems to be confusing and conflicting. The way media and companies such as Gatorade use celebrities to promote the product and talk positively sells Americans on the decision to purchase and consume sports drinks. Unfortunately Americans forgot that these drinks are actually packed with sugar. When looking at the back of a 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade, it contains 35 grams of sugar, and 150 calories. According to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans “the suggested amount of discretional calorie intake for children, which includes sugars and fats, should be about 5-15% and the consumption of sugar should be between 12 and 25 grams per day and based on their age. ” While these are the ideal suggestions for ultimate health, Americans actually consume about 82 grams of sugar a day as well as 16% of their caloric intake which comes strictly from sugar. That bottle of Gatorade is almost double what the amount of sugar intake should include and while these drinks are recommended to be consumed during exercise, a child who plays soccer for an hour twice a week is not working hard enough to lose all those electrolytes and carbs making that excess sugar from the sports drinks turn into fat.
While these sports drinks are promoted in a way that makes them seems healthy and good for you especially after exercise that is not actually the case. These large companies use professional athletes to promote these products, as they actually are exercising to the extent that is needed to have to replenish the missing electrolytes, when in reality most everyday Americans do not exercise to that extend especially children. Big corporations like Gatorade use media to its advantage to promote these products to make money, even though the information given is often only for a particular person. For parents who get their information about these drinks from other sources such as the article on the Livestrong site, the authors use vague terms and phrases, such as Cespedes did, when talking about electrolyte replacement stating “They must be replaced if you sweat a lot or are exercising at a relatively intense level for more than an hour.” The lack of clarity on what a lot is or what a relatively intense exercise is leaves rooms for Americans to determine that they are fulfilling those requirements so they must consume these products. Throughout many campaigns and initiatives more people are becoming properly informed about the overall health benefits of drinks like this. Americans are slowly becoming more and more health conscious, resulting in less consumption of these drinks and more consumption of water and other beneficial beverages.
Cespedes, Andrea. “Benefits of Sports Drinks Like Gatorade and Powerade.” Leaf Group, 09 June 2015. Web. 04 Dec. 2016
Johnson. “How much is too much?” Research. SugarScience.org, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.