Dr. Jesse Ross: Sports Drinks: The Missing Ingredient

By Dr. Jesse Ross

Nutritional magnesium has been recognized as a vital supplement for athletic performance. It has been clinically proven as one of the most important minerals a body needs, activating more than 350 different processes including energy production, digestion, bone formation, muscle function, activation of B vitamins, creation of new cells, relaxation of muscles and the proper functioning of the heart, brain and kidneys, as well as the nervous system.

The widespread use of sports drinks has caused great concern amongst sports medicine and sports nutrition professionals.

Many of these products can create adrenal fatigue and give athletes only short-term results. The desired increased muscle mass will not last when achieved this way and unnecessarily pollutes the body through artificial means.

Additionally, a lot of increasingly popular drinks contain caffeine levels that are higher than the FDA limit for sodas, which is 65 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces. The FDA does not regulate caffeine in energy drinks, some of which contain huge amounts of caffeine: as much as 280 mg in an 8.4-ounce serving, compared with about 100 mg per 6 ounces of coffee and 75 mg for a shot of espresso.

Caffeine can leach out minerals, including magnesium, and nutrients that your body needs, creating a deficiency and additional health problems.

These drinks also contain a significant amount of processed sugar, which further stresses the adrenals.

There is also the issue of sports drinks, which do not have the caffeine content of energy drinks but are still missing a key ingredient for proper hydration and electrolyte balance.

Dr. Robert Whang, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Hawaii, believes that commonly available top-selling sports drinks are less than optimal for re-hydration purposes because they contain little or no magnesium. Dr. Whang says that proper levels of intracellular potassium and magnesium are important in ensuring sufficient blood flow to the muscles and internal organs, in maintaining a normal acid-base balance, and in controlling the level of excitation of the nerves, particularly in the heart.1

Magnesium is also a vital component in the synthesis of ATP (the body’s main energy source), DNA, RNA and protein, and is required for proper nerve conduction, muscle contraction, cell division and transport across cell membranes.

Magnesium losses during strenuous exercise and athletic performance can be quite considerable and are accompanied by significant losses of potassium as well. There is also some evidence that a magnesium deficiency can interfere with the reuptake of potassium after dehydration.

In my work with hockey players, equestrians, and basketball and soccer players, I have always recommended that they get on a magnesium supplement (Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm®) for faster recovery, higher-quality rest and detoxification. For people who were under tremendous stress, I found that the medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, which they had been given were not handling the symptoms manifested, whether they involved depression, an inability to sleep or digestive issues affected by stress. I would have them simply try the magnesium supplement for a couple of days, at which point they would always come back and ask for more.

The main point I have witnessed with my patients who are taking the supplements is their improved recovery time and reduction of cramps and muscle pains, as well as their increase in mental focus. When your work consists of physically striving to be the best of the best, recovery time and energy production are of paramount importance. The magnesium supplement does just that.

In the sports nutrition industry you are exposed to all sorts of technologies and nutritional theories. The products from Natural Vitality kept being brought up at conferences, in magazines and at trade shows. So I had to try them out. And to my surprise, I have found them to be the most effective in delivering what a host of more expensive supplements have claimed to accomplish.

I’m often asked how I got into sports nutrition and chiropractic medicine. Funny enough, I found my original inspiration from a 1980s TV show called That’s Incredible. This was an early reality show that featured people performing amazing feats and stunts with their bodies.

I always felt I could help people maintain their bodies properly both nutritionally and physically, which would help them perform amazingly, just as in the TV show.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness on the part of most athletes with regards to musculoskeletal maintenance and nutritional supplements and the full spectrum of ingredients necessary for optimum performance. They need to understand the importance of incorporating supplements and chiropractic care as a natural part of their lifestyles. But I have found that once people start using the supplements and see their energy and focus increase, there is simply no need to hammer the message home anymore; they experience the positive results and stay inspired to use them thereafter, on their own.

If you are an athlete, stay away from heavily caffeinated sugary energy drinks and use only natural supplements. Natural supplements actually provide the proper building blocks and fuel needed in any athletic activity and tend to reduce the risk of chronic injuries.

Stay healthy and injury free!


1 Whang, Robert. Electrolyte and water metabolism in sports activities. Comprehensive Therapy, Vol. 24, January 1998, pp. 5–8.