The challenge for diabetics in finding hydration drinks is finding a hydration drink or electrolyte drink, as well as an electrolyte powder, that doesn’t have sugar or has little sugar and still tastes good. This is especially true for diabetics that practice endurance activities like long-distance running or fitness routines. People with diabetes will usually just drink the sports drinks available, although they contain a high amount of sugar, and deal with the spike in their blood sugar.
1. THEY HAVE A HIGH GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI)
A food’s glycemic index is measured by how quickly it causes your blood sugar to rise. Foods that are high in processed carbohydrates and sugars have a high glycemic index.
Foods are ranked on a scale from zero (best) to 100 (worst). They are rated according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed by your body. Ultimately you want your body to digest, absorb, and metabolize the food you eat slowly to minimize extreme effects on your system.
Gatorade, for example, has a glycemic index of 89. That’s high. A GI score of 89 means that Gatorade is rapidly digested, absorbed, and metabolized, which results in significant blood sugar fluctuations. Something that can be problematic for people with diabetes who should avoid substantial changes in blood glucose.
As previously discussed, fluctuations in blood glucose can start a chain reaction within the cells that leads to frequent urination and ultimate dehydration. So the very drink that you are using to hydrate is actually contributing to dehydration.
2. PORTION CONTROL IS DIFFICULT WHEN YOU ARE THIRSTY
Unless you have a single-serving bottle of a sports drink that contains a whopping 21 grams of sugar and 21 grams of carbohydrates per 12 ounces, it becomes tough to control how much you are drinking. If you have been exercising and become very thirsty, you can drink a 30 oz bottle of sports drink in an instant. What’s the big deal? You just quenched your thirst with 52 grams of sugar and 52 grams of carbohydrates!
Women on a diabetic diet should have 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, and men should have 60 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per meal. You just drank enough carbs to cancel out one whole meal. That’s fine if you are planning for an extra 52 grams of carbs in your day from a sports drink, but my guess is you would rather enjoy those carbs differently. For example, a cup of cooked spaghetti only has 43 grams of carbohydrates.
The news gets worse. You have just downed two days worth of your recommended daily intake of sugar, which is 24 grams for a woman and 36 grams for a man. That is a nightmare for diabetic meal planning, not to mention the effects that it has on your blood sugar levels once again, creating a scenario for you to become dehydrated while hydrating.
3. THEY CAN CAUSE HYPONATREMIA
When you are dehydrated, you have too much sodium in your blood. However, drinking excess amounts of sports drinks can dilute the salt in your blood due to overhydration, causing a condition called Hyponatremia. This can be fatal, and a significant number of marathon runners have died as a result.
Now you may not be a marathon runner, but here’s the takeaway. We know that if you have diabetes, fluctuating blood sugars can cause water to move outside of the cells and into the body’s extracellular spaces, which depletes sodium. The body gets rid of the fluid through more frequent urination, which in turn causes sodium and other electrolytes like chloride and potassium to become unbalanced.
Sports drinks can lead to Hyponatremia not only in marathon runners but in people who have type 2 diabetes too.
4. THEY CONTAIN ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS
Sugar-free sports drinks are indeed loaded with more artificial stuff than the full-sugar versions, but all store brand sports drinks contain artificial ingredients. Artificial sweeteners have been the subject of much debate and highly suspected of causing certain types of cancers as well as other frightening health maladies. There have even been reports that artificial sweeteners can cause increased insulin levels.
Studies done on artificial sweeteners and artificial colors seem to waffle back and forth between frightening and mildly disconcerting. The bottom line is they are chemicals that are used to make your food taste sweeter or look more appealing. Putting chemicals in your body is bound to have some adverse effect on your health over time. No, thank you.
5. THEY CONTAIN PROCESSED MINERALS
Along with all of the pitfalls listed above, the minerals that you get from drinking sports drinks are processed. Food processing includes adding components to food that will extend shelf life, or adding vitamins and minerals that will improve the nutritional quality.
Your body metabolizes processed foods differently than it does real, clean whole foods that don’t have additives to make it last longer. The vitamins and minerals that come from natural sources are best absorbed and utilized by our bodies.
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and hydration. When replacing minerals that are lost due to sweating, frequent urination, diarrhea, or vomiting, you need to know that your body is going to be able to utilize what you drink immediately for rehydration and blood sugar regulation. The best hydration drinks will have organic minerals added in.
6. BECAUSE SOME CONTAIN CAFFEINE
Some sports/energy drinks contain caffeine. When you are trying to rehydrate, high levels of caffeine can have a diuretic effect. This means they can cause you to frequently urinate, losing the minerals you are trying to replace in your body. This can lead to electrolyte imbalance and deficiency.
Caffeine also has a laxative effect on some people. Diarrhea and frequent urination is an electrolyte disaster and a blood sugar disaster for people with diabetes. Stick to drinking whole, natural forms of electrolyte replacement with no caffeine.
7. BECAUSE YOU LOVE YOUR BODY
Your body is your temple, and you only get one chance to treat it with the love and respect it deserves. You can not maintain a healthy body by feeding it artificial ingredients, loads of sugar, processed minerals, and caffeine. When you drink sports and energy drinks that are laced with all of these horrible ingredients, it is bound to break down on you somewhere along the way.
Choose whole, real, organic, and unprocessed foods and hydration drinks that complement the many processes that are happening inside your body to make it run smoothly and function at its peak. A well-oiled machine won’t fail you in times of need. Treat your body like the temple that it is. Don’t just hydrate with a sports drink, hydrate with HYDRATE!