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Liquid Liars

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop we drink – unless it: is flavored, colored, sweetened, pumped with “nutrient enhancement through vitamins,” antioxidants, electrolytes; promises replenishment from my hard sweaty workout, energy, hydration, power, performance or immune protection; and comes in a sexy or techno-looking bottle.

I am still in the middle of a typical supermarket. (Please refer to my previous 2 articles, here and here.) I’m incredulous over the 100’ long, 7’ high wall of “beverages” called Sports Drinks and Vitamin Water. Equally, at another supermarket I’m appalled by the energy zapping multitude of convenience refrigerators and end of aisle shelf displays these liquids occupy. And I’m not even including the aisles of sodas, tea drinks, and fake juice drinks. Wow! Apparently we Americans love to spend money on our liquids, and plain bottled water is no longer socially acceptable, scientifically satisfying or even palatable.

I admit, when I walk through a typical supermarket I can become angry. When I see an aisle like this I want to scream out WAKE UP AMERICA and STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY ON THIS STUFF!

Question: What comes to mind when I say #1 sports drink in America? Yes, it’s GATORADE! According to their website, “Gatorade is formulated to be even more effective [than water] for occasions when not only fluid replacement, but also carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement is desirable– such as for athletes in training or competition or workers or anyone engaged in vigorous physical activity in a hot environment.”

Eric Heiden, M.D. (the most iconic speed skater in history and past professional cyclist, and team physician for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Team) stated, “You don’t need electrolyte replacement unless you’re engaged in more than one hour of intense exertion in hot humid weather, or two to three hours on an average type day. Otherwise drinking water is sufficient. (Electrolytes are body salts essential for normal function of our cells and our organs – sodium and potassium being the two major ones in our body.)”

Now I ask you, what percentage of us are high performance athletes? Do we really need to guzzle blue #1 infused Gatorade because we just “worked out” in the gym? Are our children drinking it because it’s necessary or it’s fashionable and given out as the default drink in Little League? They and perhaps we, buy in to the image, the association that if we sweat a little we’re an athlete who needs to immediately replenish lost electrolytes. (However, on the continuum, as Heiden added, it is a better choice than soda.)

This is what’s in Gatorade Perform 02, Cool Blue: Water, sucrose (sugar), dextrose (sugar), citric acid (preservative and sour taste), natural and artificial flavor, salt, sodium citrate (provides tartness and controls acid level), monopotassium phosphate, modified food starch, glycerol ester of rosin (emulsifier and stabilizer), blue 1.

50 calories for 8 fl.oz
Sodium 110
Potassium 30 mg
Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Total Carbohydrate 14g

Here’s an orange (I don’t have room for all the vitamins and minerals, just the basic comparison):

60 calories
Potassium 326mg
Calcium 72 mg
Magnesium  18 mg
Phosphorus 25 mg
Vitamin C 96 mg
Folate 54 mcg
Fiber 3 g
Sugar 12 g
Protein 1.2g
Total Carbohydrate 15g

So how about a little water and an orange.  Or perhaps a pretzel for some salt. Or as Heiden suggests, have a Fig Newton or an apple.

Let’s move onto the water drinks – what an absurd invention! Through our fake food consumerism, our palettes have become trained to dislike the natural, pure taste of water. Now even our water drinks need to be “slightly sweet, advanced with vitamins, enhanced with antioxidants,” B vitamins and electrolytes!

Witness Fruit2O, Natural Lemon Water Beverage: Purified water, contains less than 2% of natural flavor, citric acid, sodium citrate, sucralose, sodium hexametaphosphate, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate to protect flavor!

Here’s another – “lemon bot” all natural enhanced water: ultra purified water (that makes me feel better already), pure cane sugar, natural flavor, citric acid, electrolytes (calcium chloride, potassium bicarbonate, magnesium chloride), B vitamins: B5, B6, B12, and antioxidants. I could go on with Arizona Rescue Water, Skinny Water with electrolytes and Super Citrimax (to lose weight), and Lemon Propel Zero, a “zero calorie nutrient enhanced water beverage,” made by Gatorade.

How did we Americans become such unquestioning consumers, so willing to trust what food manufacturers extol as virtues of their products, promising us health or balanced nutrition when we partake in them? Advertising is a monolithic force, constantly re-scripting the currents of our reality, creating the beliefs of our needs and desires. We need to wake up, to educate ourselves, our children, and each other in order to disentangle from the gravity of their false or unnecessary promises.

Photo credit: Andy on Flickr, used with permission under Creative Commons license.

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1 comment to Liquid Liars

  • Brian

    Love it!! I never could develop a taste for Gatorade. Developed at the University of Florida and marketed for all of us ‘athletes’, it has evolved into an iconic symbol of how much we pamper ourselves in this nation.

    After spending time in countries where they have difficulty getting decent (much less clean) drinking water, I am appalled at some of my fellow Americans. We are better than this. We need to wake up and smell the …

    …water. 🙂