Should You Drink Pedialyte or Gatorade for a Hangover?

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Electrolyte-based drinks like Pedialyte and Gatorade are designed to help you rehydrate when your body loses water. While they're sometimes used interchangeably, the formulas differ slightly in their hydration approach.

Pedialyte has traditionally been marketed as an over-the-counter rehydration treatment for minor illnesses in young children, and Gatorade is well-known for its exercise endurance properties for athletes. The best option will vary depending on the individual and the situation, whether you're sick, hungover, working out at a high intensity, or just hoping to feel more hydrated.

This article discusses the differences between Pedialyte and Gatorade and when each might be used.

Young woman drinking sports drink

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Pedialyte and Gatorade

Electrolytes are minerals that the body needs to refuel and combat dehydration. Electrolyte-enhanced beverages like Pedialyte and Gatorade help replenish fluids and electrolytes that have been lost through bodily processes like sweating and urinating.

While most people get plenty of electrolytes from their daily diet, electrolyte-based drinks can provide a boost for someone feeling depleted in certain situations, including:

Similarities

Pedialyte and Gatorade both contain water, some form of sugar, and electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

Both beverages come in various flavors and are considered more efficient at rehydration than regular water due to the added electrolytes.

Differences

The main difference between the two drinks is their nutritional content. These beverages can vary slightly in their calorie, carb, and electrolyte contents.

Typically, Pedialyte will have less sugar and carbohydrates than traditional Gatorade, though Gatorade Zero and G2 versions contain reduced amounts.

Both beverages aim to replenish rehydration, but in slightly different ways. Ultimately, Pedialyte usually contains more electrolytes (good for illnesses that induce vomiting or diarrhea), while traditional Gatorade typically has more sugar (beneficial for athletes engaging in intense exercise).

Nutrition

Just as with other food and beverages, it's worth checking the nutritional label on any electrolyte-based drink before consuming.

Gatorade traditionally comes with higher amounts of sugar, sodium, and calories, because the product is geared toward athletes who benefit from these ingredients during and after long periods of exercise. But for the average person (and especially children) who do not partake in intense exercise, regularly consuming sweetened beverages may be linked to obesity and other health issues.

Pedialyte contains a mix of water, dextrose (sugar), and electrolytes. Some versions also include the added electrolyte zinc, which helps the absorption of electrolytes and can reduce diarrhea.

Recap

Beverages like Pedialyte and Gatorade are made up of ingredients like the electrolytes sodium and potassium, sugar, water, and more. Check the nutrition label if you're worried about the added sugar intake, though this could actually benefit high endurance athletes' performance.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are essential minerals that the body needs to function properly. These electrically-charged minerals attract water and help the body regulate fluid levels, keep muscles contracting, and stabilize the body’s pH balance.

Six electrolytes your body requires are:

Electrolytes are lost regularly through bodily functions like sweat, urine, feces, and vomit, then replenished through food and beverages. But if more water leaves the body than enters it, dehydration may occur. This might happen with vigorous exercising, a hangover, or when someone has diarrhea.

This is why some individuals may benefit from an extra electrolyte boost, including athletes, people who work outdoors in the heat, or someone experiencing an illness or dehydration-related headaches.

Electrolyte replacement may also be useful for older adults, young children, or pregnant people experiencing severe morning sickness (if approved by a healthcare provider).

Risks of Dehydration

Mild dehydration usually doesn't cause major or noticeable symptoms other than thirst. But moderate to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can be potentially life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice symptoms such as:

  • Labored breathing
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weakness or unusual fatigue

Which One Is Best?

Both Pedialyte and Gatorade can work well in different situations, depending on the person and the reason for rehydration. Keep in mind that individual hydration needs can vary based on health status and activity level.

For Hangovers

Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine, which depletes electrolytes and can lead to dehydration. This is why it's important to get fluids back into your body when you're feeling hungover after a night of drinking.

While electrolyte beverages are not a hangover cure, they can help with rehydration. Because Pedialyte typically has less sugar and additional zinc, it may be the better choice for someone experiencing hangover-induced vomiting, diarrhea, or headache.

For Hydration

Staying hydrated in general is important, and some studies show that electrolyte beverages can help keep you hydrated for longer periods of time.

The combination of sugar, sodium, and calories in Gatorade can not only replenish hydration, it can also slow down the process of emptying your stomach and urination. This can help extend the amount of time that your body stays hydrated.

For Illness

Any illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea can lead to quick electrolyte loss. Older research found that both Gatorade and Pedialyte were effective at treating dehydrated adults dealing with a viral digestive illness.

However, keep in mind that the original Gatorade formula can have a higher sugar count, which often makes diarrhea worse. In this case, it's likely best to stick to lower-sugar options like Pedialyte, particularly for kids and older adults who may have trouble processing the extra sugar.

The Best Option for Your Stomach

When you're sick, any fluids are better than none. Perhaps the best option is to choose the drink that your stomach is able to tolerate.

For Sports

Sports drinks are not only designed to replace electrolytes lost while sweating, but also to provide carbohydrate energy to your muscles during exercise.

Gatorade was literally made for athletes. In adults, Gatorade's higher carbohydrate content can help support high endurance activities during 90-minute training sessions and decrease the odds of muscle cramping. While Gatorade can be useful for extremely physically active children, you might consider G2 or Gatorade Zero as lower-sugar options.

Overall

Whether it's a hangover, illness, hard-core workout, or just not getting enough to drink throughout the day, electrolytes are key for rehydration. Ultimately, it's up to the person (and potentially their healthcare provider) whether Pedialyte or Gatorade is the best choice for each individual situation.

Regardless of which drink ends up working best for you, experts agree it's essential to maintain hydration and avoid becoming dehydrated.

Recap

Consider Pedialyte for:

  • Illness recovery, particularly for young children and older adults
  • Situations where extra electrolytes are needed, rather than extra sugar and carbs

Consider Gatorade if:

  • You're an athlete looking to rehydrate after a serious sweat session
  • You could benefit from the extra sugar and carbs

Summary

Pedialyte and Gatorade help with rehydration and replenishing lost electrolytes, which are essential minerals the body needs to function properly. Some people turn to electrolyte-enhanced drinks when they're hungover, sick, working out intensely, or just looking for additional hydration.

In general, Pedialyte may be the best choice if you're seeking to rehydrate due to illness for the extra electrolyte content, while Gatorade might be best for athletic or similar purposes due to added sugar and calories.

A Word From Verywell

Each person's water and electrolyte needs vary depending on several factors, including your health status, activity level, diet, environment, and whether you're pregnant or breastfeeding. It's worth consulting with a healthcare provider if you have further questions or concerns about adding or removing an electrolyte beverage to your diet, particularly if you have a health condition that could be affected by these changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do electrolytes do?

    Electrolytes are essential minerals that your body needs to survive. They help support important bodily functions like fluid regulation, muscle contraction, and pH balance.

  • What other drinks have electrolytes?

    There are several different options if you're looking for an electrolyte boost. In addition to Pedialyte and Gatorade, you could choose other sports drinks, ionized alkaline water, coconut water, dissolvable tablets for your water bottle, and more.

  • How does Pedialyte work?

    Pedialyte replenishes electrolytes that may have been lost due to dehydration. The sugar helps pull electrolytes (sodium and potassium) into your body, and the water helps rehydrate you.

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