Is Gatorade Good for You?

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Gatorade is a sports drink that helps replenish an athlete's energy after intense physical activity. It is formulated to help replace water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates (specifically sugar) that are lost when we sweat during intense activity.

Gatorade is a popular product, but just how healthy is it? Here's a look at the best-selling sports drink in America, its nutritional value, benefits, and risks.

Gatorade bottles on sports field

Alex Caparros / Getty Images

What Is Gatorade?

Gatorade is known as the original sports drink. It was developed by researchers at the University of Florida in 1965 for the "Gators" football team as a way for athletes to replenish and rehydrate after physical activity.

So what's in it?

Gatorade is about 90% water. This is a critical component, as hydration is important for our general health, especially after physical exertion.

Gatorade also contains carbohydrates (carbs), which come in the form of sugar. This helps rebuild glycogen, which stores glucose (sugar) in your muscles for energy.

The main electrolytes (minerals) in Gatorade are sodium and potassium. Electrolytes have several functions, including regulating muscle contractions, keeping you hydrated, and balancing your pH level (the balance of acidity and alkalinity in your body).

The Gatorade that most closely resembles the original formula is Gatorade G Thirst Quencher, which is what will be discussed in this article.

Can Anyone Drink Gatorade?

We know that Gatorade is popular with athletes, but is it appropriate for anyone to drink, regardless of their general health, age, or activity level? Though it does hydrate the body, Gatorade may not be healthy for everyone, particularly the forms with higher levels of sugar and salt. Fortunately, today it is sold in several formulas, some of which have added vitamins, less sugar or fewer calories, or in organic form.

Nutritional Facts

Nutritional facts tell you how high or low a food or drink is in various nutrients, as well as the percentage of recommended daily values they provide. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade G Thirst Quencher contains:

  • 140 calories
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 270 milligrams of sodium
  • 36 grams of carbohydrates
  • 34 grams of sugar
  • 0 grams of protein
  • 80 milligrams of potassium

How does the nutrition value in Gatorade stack up with recommended daily values of its main components? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines:

  • Sugar: The USDA dietary guidelines recommend no more than 36 grams of sugar a day for adult men and no more than 25 grams for adult women. One bottle of Gatorade meets or exceeds that recommendation. Americans on average eat 77 grams of sugar a day.
  • Sodium: The American diet also tends to run high in sodium (salt). The USDA guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, and ideally no more than 1,500 milligrams. One bottle of Gatorade provides a little more than 10% of the recommended sodium intake.
  • Potassium: Many people don't get enough of this mineral, which helps regulate your heartbeat. Gatorade provides roughly 2% of the recommended daily intake, which is between 3,500 to 4,700 milligrams.

Ingredients

In a bottle of Lemon-Lime Gatorade G Thirst Quencher, the ingredients in order of quantity are:

  • Water (about 90%)
  • Sugar
  • Dextrose (a form of sugar used as an artificial sweetener and for quick energy)
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Sodium citrate (salt found in citric acid)
  • Monopotassium phosphate
  • Gum arabic (an emulsifier and thickening agent)
  • Glycerol ester of rosin (stabilizer or thickening agent)
  • Natural flavor
  • Yellow 5 food dye (other flavors may contain other dyes and flavorings)

Is Gatorade Healthy for Children?

For teens and older children who play a lot of sports or stay very physically active, Gatorade can provide the same benefits as it does for adults. However, the sugar can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay, so the American Association of Pediatrics suggests limiting sports drinks for kids.

Benefits

After intense exercise, it's important to replenish the body with fluid and minerals lost through sweat. Gatorade can help you rehydrate since it contains mainly water, and the sugar can help refuel muscles quickly.

If you've ever noticed how your sweat is salty, that's because you're losing sodium. The salt in Gatorade can resupply you with this mineral.

If you are dehydrated for any reason, whether through intense activity, illness, or you don't drink enough water, Gatorade can provide hydration. If you drink the Gatorade formulas that contain vitamins, they can contribute to your nutrient needs.

Hydrating Without Gatorade

Most experts recommend getting nutrition through food rather than supplemental nutrients, and if you are dehydrated, drink water.

Risks

Because it's high in sugar and salt, bottles of Gatorade can quickly add up to more than a healthy amount of these nutrients, particularly if you have an inactive lifestyle.

If you have obesity or an inactive lifestyle, Gatorade can add unnecessary calories to your diet that you don't work off (though it's lower in calories than sugary sodas, which come in at about double that of Gatorade).

Obesity puts you at higher risk for developing:

If you already have one or more of these conditions, drinking Gatorade regularly can make them worse.

Additionally, too much salt can raise blood pressure. This stresses the cardiovascular system and can lead to heart attack or stroke. Therefore, consuming a lot of Gatorade if you already eat a lot of other salty food doesn't contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

The high sugar content of Gatorade is also a challenge to good health. Experts recommend that sugar form no more than 10% of our daily diet. About half of Americans eat double that on a daily basis.

Sugar affects your blood glucose level and can create insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. It is also associated with cardiovascular disease.

While Gatorade is not unhealthy in and of itself, it can contribute to health concerns if you drink a lot of it and are inactive or have obesity.

Gatorade and the Glycemic Index

Gatorade is high on the glycemic index, which measures how quickly the body uses sugar (another way to assess risk in developing type 2 diabetes). The index goes from 1 to 100, and anything over 70 is considered high. The glycemic index of Gatorade is 78.

Summary

Drinking Gatorade after 30 minutes or more of intense exercise can help quickly replace water and electrolytes you lose by sweating. However, drinking water will do much of the same thing. 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 .

A Word From Verywell

If you're thirsty from exercising or strenuous activity, Gatorade will help rehydrate you. But it may not be the healthiest option as an everyday drink, or for when you're relaxing. This is particularly true if you have obesity or other health conditions that can be made worse through poor nutrition. There are plenty of other choices, including water, to replenish your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Gatorade good for you when you are sick?

    If you have an illness that's causing vomiting or diarrhea and you get dehydrated, Gatorade can help rehydrate you and replace lost electrolytes. So can water, broth, and other clear fluids.

  • Does Gatorade make you poop?

    If you have low potassium levels, you may become constipated, because potassium helps your intestinal muscles contract. The potassium in Gatorade may help ease constipation. Bananas are another good source of potassium.

  • Should older people drink Gatorade?

    Older people have a tendency to become dehydrated, but any older adult who has heart issues, diabetes, kidney disease, or obesity would benefit from drinking water or broth. An occasional bottle of Gatorade is fine, but it contains salt and sugar, both of which can be unhealthy for the cardiovascular system.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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