Maybe you’ve seen the new Gatorade commercial pushing the “5th Quarter.”

It’s clever marketing. The commercial opens on scenes of foods with little or no nutritional value – a vendor machine pastry,
a half-eaten chili cheese dog tossed onto a playground, and a soft-serve waffle cone with rainbow sprinkles.

The idea is that between competitions, it’s important to stay focused and to make sure your body is getting what it needs
for the next round. So when you step off the court, you are in the 5th quarter, preparing yourself for the start of the next game.

The commercials are promoting a new hard candy-type supplement from Gatorade. Prominent athletes are seen carefully placing the candy in their mouth in the locker room or before they hit the field.

Now, Gatorade and Powerade and other makers of sports drinks are out to make money. Sports drinks represent one of the
fastest-growing segments of the beverage market. And the sports drinks, in moderation and at the right time, are a fairly good product. Many sports drinks not only help you get re-hydrated after a workout or during a competition, they
also have essential electrolytes that have been lost during the workout that your body needs to replenish.

However, keep in mind that we as a society have become hard-wired for sweet tasting foods and drinks. The proliferation of corn
syrup in so much of our processed foods (although not in sports drinks) can attest to this fact.

So if you’ll look at the label of just about any sports drink, you’ll see they are high in carbohydrates and sugars. Some
carbohydrates are good for you to restore energy reserves, but you shouldn’t have to get them out of a sports drink.

If you’ve worked out for 45 minutes to an hour, then downing a sports drink can be a smart move to re-hydrate and replenish. But
just buying one at the corner store before you come home from work is about as healthy as buying a sugary soda.

Which brings us back to the “candy” energy supplement. There are some vitamins in there, but nothing you can’t get from eating a few strawberries or an apple.

It’s not just this product from Gatorade – energy bars, gels and other “nutritional” supplements are often loaded with sugar and
carbs. You might get the same energy boost from six sugar cubes – it will get you going, but you will pay for it later with a crash and burn.

Eating smart throughout the day is the key. Think about carrying around a couple of apples for mid-morning or afternoon snacks. Or a small bag of carrots. Or have a handful of nuts in a sandwich bag or container. This will keep our fuel cells charged for the “5th

As with anything, sports drinks are OK in moderation, and they have their place in helping athletes stay “in the game.”  But they are not a magic elixir.

One final note: Don’t mistake sports drinks for so-called “energy drinks.” These drinks are little more than a solution of
caffeine and water, marketed to students up studying late, people who are working late or who go out for a night of dancing. Energy drinks won’t help you train and can be detrimental to keeping you energized throughout the day.

The 5th Quarter is important. Just think about how you are keeping your body prepared for the next round.