Food & Drink

Most active people don't need sports drinks, snacks

If you're in the habit of morning runs or daily tennis matches, rest assured you are making a sizable contribution to your good health.

Most of us fall somewhere along the continuum of couch potato, weekend warrior or sporadic exerciser.

There's a difference between the needs of sporadic exercisers compared to elite athletes who train intensively.

Most physically active people can meet their nutritional needs from an ordinary, balanced diet with enough calories to maintain an optimal weight.

Sports nutrition myths or clever marketing campaigns sometimes make people think they need something they don't. Examples of common misconceptions include:

Active people need special fluid replacements. Not true. Some high-level athletes may benefit from the added sodium, potassium and chloride in sports drinks, but for the majority of us, they're just expensive sources of water. Plain water is the best beverage for most normally active people.

Special sports snacks are better than regular food. Nope. Liquid meal replacements, shakes, energy bars, sports gels and chews are marketed as good ways to get a shot of energy before or after a workout. Some contain added sugar, caffeine, herbs and supplements. But most of us don't need the concentrated calories many of these products contain.

A steak dinner is a good meal. Wrong again. A mix of nutrients from vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit and a more modest dose of protein is a healthier choice for everyone.

But this is general advice. People with special dietary needs should seek individualized diet counseling from a registered dietitian. One source is the American Dietetic Association's referral service at 800-366-1655.

Another good resource: books and a blog maintained by well-known sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. See

It's a challenge to find ways to stay physically active. Fortunately, it's easy to eat well to support your exercise routine.