Gatorade works in the body by providing it with carbohydrates and electrolytes, but the drink is not necessarily critical to performing your best.
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When exercising for a significant period of time, your body needs fuel and hydration to keep going.
This can come in the form of a sports drink such as Gatorade, which was created in the 1960s for the University of Florida football team — the Gators (hence the name).
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Not everyone needs to refuel with a sports drink, however, which can be high in calories and sugar. While there are benefits to the drink, there are also disadvantages of Gatorade.
Here, we'll look at who and what Gatorade is good for, Gatorade's nutrition and additional information about the sport's drink to help you determine whether it's a good pick for you.
Gatorade Nutrition Facts
There are many different types of products that fall under the Gatorade brand. You can find 0-calorie, low-sugar, protein and organic options as well as Gatorade powders, shakes and bars.
The following chart examines the nutrients of some of the most popular Gatorade sports drinks in a 12-ounce serving.
Nutrition and Electrolytes in Gatorade Sports Drinks
Gatorade Thirst Quencher
G2 (lower sugar)
8 g (zero added sugars)
Note that Gatorade sports drinks are fat-free, which is why the table below does not include the macronutrient. G Zero, Gatorade's zero sugar options, uses sucralose, a zero-calorie artificial sweetener that's found in Splenda.
The Benefits of Gatorade
It's important to stay hydrated, especially while exercising.While drinking water can help you accomplish just that, drinking Gatorade can help as well.
Staying hydrated helps you maintain optimal athletic performance, which can drop if you lose as little as 2 percent of your body weight due to sweating, drops if you lose as little as 1 percent of your body weight due to sweating, according to U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Since Gatorade tastes sweet and palatable, it may encourage you drink more than if you were drinking plain water. With this line of thinking, Gatorade may promote extra hydration.
Still, there's no evidence that sports drinks hydrate any more effectively than water.
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Unlike water, Gatorade and similar sports drinks contain carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates provide the fuel your body needs to function every day, but they're especially important for supporting muscle activity.
When you exercise for more than an hour, drinking beverages that contain 13 to 19 grams of carbs per 8-ounce serving helps boost your endurance, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Gatorade can be useful in this case, since it gives your body the energy it needs to continue to exercise.
Electrolytes are salt minerals that conduct electricity and balance essential body fluids, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Electrolytes affect how your body functions in several ways, including:
- The amount of water in your body
- The acidity of your blood (pH)
- Your muscle function
Electrolyte imbalances, from dehydration or excessive sweating, can have serious health consequences. Gatorade contains three electrolytes — sodium, potassium and chloride — to help replenish lost electrolytes and keep your body running smoothly and efficiently during intense exercise.
When we sweat, our bodies lose both water and electrolytes. In general, you won't need to replenish your electrolytes unless you're exercising for longer than 60 to 90 minutes, according to ACE Fitness.
For this reason, unless they are professional athletes or fitness pros, most people don't really need beverages with electrolytes during exercise.
Electrolytes in Gatorade
Gatorade Thirst Quencher contains 380 mg of sodium and 110 mg of potassium, which is 17 percent and 2 percent of the daily values (DV), respectively.
Gatorade Endurance contains the most electrolytes, with 620 mg of sodium and 280 mg of potassium.
Sodium: Sodium is one of the major electrolytes found in Gatorade as well as other sports drinks. Sodium the sweat at a much greater quantity than other electrolytes, per Sanford Health.
Sodium plays a large role in regulating fluid balances in your body and conducting electrical impulses in the nervous system. In relation to exercise, it stimulates sugar and water uptake in the small intestines and activates the thirst mechanism to keep individuals hydrated.
While most Americans get more than enough sodium in their diet, sports drinks with sodium can be beneficial to those exercising for more than 90 at a time or in especially hot conditions.
Hyponatremia, or low sodium levels, can cause nausea and vomiting, fatigue and muscle weakness, confusion and, in more severe cases, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Potassium: Potassium, which may be less important than sodium for exercise, is another electrolyte present in many sports drinks. It’s important for rehydrating and maintaining fluid balance and muscle contractions, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Chloride: Chloride is a negatively charged electrolyte found primarily on the outside of cells. Working with sodium, potassium and water, chloride primarily functions in regulating the balance of fluids in your body.
Your body can lose chloride through excessive sweating, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms of low chloride, or hypochloremia, may include high levels of sodium in your blood and dehydration, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Gatorade does not list how much chloride is included in its formulas.
Muscle Cramp Prevention
The most common cause of muscle cramps during sports activity is dehydration, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Working out when you're dehydrated or when you have low levels of minerals, like potassium and calcium, can make you more likely to have a muscle spasm.
Drinking water is sometimes enough to ease the cramping, while other times, the addition of salt can provide relief. The salt in sports drinks, which helps to replenish lost minerals, can sometimes be helpful.
The Disadvantages of Gatorade
If you're wondering what Gatorade does to your body, know that weight gain is one possible result.
While Gatorade has solidified its reputation as a sports drink, despite its clever messaging, not every person playing sports needs to drink Gatorade.
An August 2014 research review from the University of California at Berkeley, Atkins Center for Weight and Health found that most researchers are basing their results on the performance of serious athletes — not everyday people who may exercise moderately.
Consuming excess calories is tied to weight gain — and consuming those calories in liquid form may have a more significant effect.
Sugary drinks don't fill you up as quickly as solid foods do, so it is easy to take in more calories than you really need, according to MassGeneral.
Liquid calories are easier to consume more quickly, and they don't send the same fullness signals to the body. July 2011 research in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care shows that eating carbohydrates in a solid form from food promotes a feeling of fullness, verses consuming a liquid form of carbohydrates, which can leave you feeling hungry.
Similarly, sugary drinks can cause your blood sugar to rise and fall quickly, which makes you feel hungry and leads to consuming more calories, per MassGeneral.
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Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
There are documented negative health effects associated with consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, per the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which include a greater risk for obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and heart disease.
Excess calories: The more ounces of sugary beverages a person has each day, the more calories they take in later in the day, per Harvard Health Publishing. As we know, consuming excess calories is closely tied to weight gain.
These findings are not just limited to sugar-sweetened juices and sodas; drinks like Gatorade, Pocari Sweat, Powerade and beyond are also considered sugar-sweetened beverages, even if they are marketed as spoors drinks.
Increased risk for obesity: Among people with a genetic predisposition for obesity, those who drank sugary drinks were more likely to have obesity than those who did not, found a large October 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined the diets of 33,097 people.
On the flip side, studies in both children and adults have found that reducing sugary drink consumption can lead to bette weight management among those who have overweight, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Increased risk for diabetes: Sugar-sweetened beverages are also linked with an increased risk for diabetes.
A November 2010 analysis of 11 studies in Diabetes Care found that people who consumed one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 26 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those who drank one or fewer sweetened drinks per month.
Even sugar-free drinks that are artificially sweetened — like Gatorade's G Zero — are associated with detrimental health effects.
A November 2020 letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology investigated the relationship between the risk of cardiovascular disease and consuming sugary drinks and artificially sweetened drinks.
The researchers found that both higher consumers of sweetened beverages and artificially-sweetened drinks had higher risks of first incident cardiovascular disease, after taking into account a wide range of confounding factors.
Gatorade vs. Water
Gatorade provides advantages over water if you need to replenish sodium, or if you're working out for a significant period of time (think 60 minutes or more), especially if that's in a hot or humid climate.
For most people, however, water works great. Water keeps you hydrated without adding extra calories or sugar to your diet.
If you do choose to drink Gatorade, remember that everything's best in moderation.
How to Decide if You Really Need Gatorade
Before you turn to Gatorade as your recovery drink, consider what your body really needs.
First, check your sweat rate. If you arrive home after a run or workout dripping in sweat, then you're more likely to have lost electrolytes during your workout. But you can replenish lost electrolytes in ways beyond drinking Gatorade.
Most American diets include more than enough sodium, but every body is different.
As a September 2015 paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests, different individuals sweat and lose electrolytes at different rates. A person's acclimation to heat and humidity, along with their speed, body weight and even their genes all influence their sweat rate.
A good rule of thumb is to consider the duration of your workout. You likely won't need to replenish electrolytes until at least an hour into a strenuous workout.
The carbs in Gatorade gives you energy, but if you had a pre-workout meal, you likely don't need any extra carbs for at least 60 to 90 minutes.
If you're a heavy sweater and are working out for long periods of time, you may be interested in getting the benefits of Gatorade without as many drawbacks. Fortunately, there are ways to mix up a healthy sports drink without all the sugar.
See this guide for making a healthy and hydrating sports drink at home.
What are the pros and cons to Gatorade? ›
Drinking sugary sports drinks, such as Gatorade, is associated with:
- weight gain.
- poor diet.
- switching from healthful drinks.
- raised risk of diabetes and obesity.
When consumed often, the sugar content of Gatorade can also contribute to tooth decay, especially in children. For people who are less active, getting extra sugar and sodium throughout the day isn't necessary or recommended. The extra calories from a sports drink could contribute to weight gain.What are the pros about Gatorade? ›
Drinking Gatorade benefits your health in many ways. It may help treat dehydration, offer vital nutrients that you lose through sweating, improve performance, maintain blood glucose levels, increase exercise capacity, and help prevent muscle cramping during exercise.Is Gatorade actually good for you? ›
While some athletes may benefit from the high amounts of sugar in Gatorade, the majority of people who enjoy sports drinks aren't as physically active as they should be. For the majority, the additional sugar and calories could contribute to weight gain rather than boost health.Which Gatorade is the healthiest? ›
Features. Healthy Real Hydration: Gatorade Fit is the newest electrolyte beverage from Gatorade and is formulated for the active consumer looking for healthy, real hydration, with no added sugar. No Added Sugar, No Artificial Flavors or Sweeteners, No Added Colors: Gatorade Fit is sweetened with Stevia.Is Gatorade good when you're sick? ›
"Sports beverages may be fine for healthy persons following intensive exercise, but they are not recommended for those with fever, diarrhea or vomiting.What are the pros and cons of sports drinks? ›
Jessica Buschmann: So there are many pros and cons to sports drinks, including they provide energy and they prevent dehydration. However, they also have a lot of calories and a lot of sugar. You should use sports drinks if you're participating in sports greater than 60 minutes in duration.What are the side effects of drinking Gatorade? ›
The high sodium content in Gatorade can lead to high blood pressure in those who overconsume the sports drink. This can then potentially lead to heart attacks and strokes.Does Gatorade dehydrate you? ›
Pedialyte and Gatorade are both designed to prevent or treat dehydration. In fact, thanks to their electrolyte content, they're more effective than water at rehydrating.Do pros drink Gatorade? ›
As for professional athletes, it's likely a matter of preference. Some pros stick with water, others drink Gatorade and then there are those like Chris Paul that drink “secret stuff,” which is nothing more than a customized concoction of fluids to maintain performance.
When should I drink Gatorade? ›
You can drink Gatorade anytime you are thirsty. Gatorade Thirst Quencher is not just for serious athletes, but can benefit all of us who enjoy being physically active.Which Gatorade is best for dehydration? ›
Dehydrated? Gatorade Thirst Quencher Fruit Punch is always the answer. Packed with electrolytes for ultimate hydration to stay on your A-game, this classic sports drink doesn't disappoint.Is Gatorade better than water when sick? ›
So while water replenishes your fluid loss, Gatorade can replenish fluids along with electrolytes. Lacking electrolytes can make a person feel even worse additionally to the sickness symptoms. For sicknesses that involve diarrhea or vomiting, Gatorade is very good for you.What is the best thing to drink when you are dehydrated? ›
Water is your best bet for everyday hydration, since it is free of sugar, calories, and caffeine. All of your daily food and beverages contribute to your daily fluid needs.What hydrates better than water? ›
Research shows that milk is one of the best beverages for hydration, even better than water or sports drinks. Researchers credit milk's natural electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein for its effectiveness.Is Powerade better than Gatorade? ›
Powerade has more vitamins than Gatorade
Neither has any fat or protein. However, Gatorade contains 10 more calories and slightly more sodium than Powerade per serving. On the other hand, Powerade packs more micronutrients, including magnesium, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12, which play important roles in your body.
A: Gatorade Zero contains 0 g. of sugar and less than 1 g. of carbohydrates per 12 oz.Does Gatorade help your immune system? ›
Rogers says hydrating with fluids other than water can help the immune system, especially when sick. “I'm talking about things that have carbohydrates and electrolytes in them, such as Gatorade, PowerAde, Pedialyte. These are things that will keep up someone's nutrition and hydration status,” Rogers said.What drinks remove mucus from the body? ›
Drinking enough liquids, especially warm ones can help with mucus flow. Water and other liquids can loosen your congestion by helping your mucus move. Try sipping liquids, like juice, clear broths, and soup. Other good liquid choices include decaffeinated tea, warm fruit juice, and lemon water.What is the best sports drink when sick? ›
To keep your salt and water balance even, you can lose salt with sweating/fever, choose Gatorade, Powerade or other sports drinks for both fluids and salt. If it tastes too strong, just water it down.
What are the pros and cons for energy drinks? ›
A few pros of consuming energy drinks are mood and attitude improvement, a better workout performance, a zero calories option, and the obvious energy boost. A few cons are they can become addictive, may cause health issues, weight gain, and sugar highs. Energy drinks can actually improve your cognitive functions.What are the cons of sport drinks? ›
Disadvantages of sports drinks
Although they offer some key benefits, most sports drinks contain too many calories and too much sugar to be considered healthy. For instance, a 20-ounce sports drink contains about 140 calories and about 34 grams of sugar.
High on sugar – one serving of an energy drink contains about 25 g – 39 g of sugar. Large quantity of sugar consumption can lead to the following: Jitters sleep disorders, dental problems, obesity and diabetes.Is it OK to drink Gatorade everyday? ›
Gatorade is not unhealthy, but it does have high amounts of sugar and salt. People who are inactive or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease should take into account the salt and sugar in a bottle of Gatorade if they want to live a healthy lifestyle .Is Gatorade good for your kidneys? ›
When the body has excess sodium that the kidneys must absorb and process, the body expels calcium. This calcium, in turn, leads to kidney stones and damages the kidneys. Drinking excess sports drinks like Gatorade increases the likelihood of this happening.What are the side effects of too much electrolytes? ›
Too much is defined as hyperkalemia, which causes muscle pains and cramps, lethargy, nausea, and trouble breathing. Once again, kidney issues are a culprit, along with severe bleeding, unchecked diabetes, and dehydration.How much Gatorade should you drink a day for dehydration? ›
Watch out for dark urine which could reflect dehydration. After practice, rehydration is an important aspect of recovery. For every pound lost after practice, you should add 20-24 fluid ounces of a sports drink or water to rehydrate.Is Gatorade better than soda? ›
That said, since athletes often need sugar and electrolytes, Gatorade is preferred over soda as its easily digested and replenishes electrolytes while supplying energy.Which sport drink is the healthiest? ›
Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix takes the top pick among sports drinks. One scoop contains 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates, necessary for optimal recovery and rehydration, along with 380 milligrams of sodium to help you replenish fluids lost during exercise.Is Gatorade good for dehydration? ›
Pedialyte and Gatorade are both designed to prevent or treat dehydration. In fact, thanks to their electrolyte content, they're more effective than water at rehydrating.
What are the symptoms of too much electrolytes? ›
- Weak muscles.
- Fast or irregular heartbeat.
Japanese researchers say sports drinks -- such as Powerade or the Gatorade that Michael Jordan pitches -- may help thin your blood during air travel and possibly lower the propensity for clotting in your legs.