Most people reach for Gatorade when they are either fueling or re-fueling for athletic activities, but do you really know how much sugar is in Gatorade? Today I’ll break down some facts about the sugar in Gatorade in hopes of helping people decide if this is the best hydrating beverage for athletes, and also talk about the different types of Gatorade out there so you can find the one that best aligns with your health goals.
If you are new to our website, know that we’re really advocates about spreading just how bad sugar is for you. We’ve compiled many stories about sugar, it’s effects on the human body, and I personally went sugar free for two weeks – I urge you to check out what happened to my body!
Is Gatorade Good or Bad for You?
There is no question that Gatorade is one of the most well known brands in the expanding sports nutrition industry, but it doesn’t come without controversy. Today I’ll share with you my findings on the pro’s and con’s of drinking gatorade so you can make an informed decision on if you want to continue fueling up with this electrolyte-rich beverage.
Everyone is unique and has their own goals and fitness philosophy, and the type of exercise, as well as your age, will come into the equation when trying to figure out if this is a beverage you want to consume. Most of the calories in Gatorade is derived from sugar in order to give a quick jolt of energy during exercise. As mentioned, the drink does contain electrolytes and helps the body replenish those as we lose them through sweating. Unless you are training at a very high level, (think collegiate, Olympic, or professional sports) I have concluded that there are better options for hydration and energy.
Gatorade’s Nutritional Value
In a standard 20 ounce bottle of any flavor or color you will find the following:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock and don’t get out to your local gas station or supermarket, you’ve definitely heard about this sports drink. You can find it in a wide variety of colors and flavors. The story about this brand goes way back to 1965, when the coach football team at the University of Florida worked with their own College of Medicine within the University to assist with the hot Florida climate and the toll it was taking on it’s football team’s players. The attempted to tackle the issue of losing electrolytes through sweat as well as loading the body with carbs for some quick energy. With this in mind, the drink was developed for the team, and it was largely based on water, salt, sugar, and some citrus flavoring. Given the Florida mascot is the “Gators,” the name was aptly given – Gatorade.
A couple years later, the football team won their first ever Orange Bowl, and interest in the sports drink spiked.
Eventually a researcher came to terms with a manufacturer and they set off to produce this for sale in the U.S.A. Just over ten years later, in the 1980’s, the brand signed and agreement with the National Football League to make the drink the official drink of the league.
Sales boomed, and the brand expanded rapidly. You can’t watch sports without seeing the drink being consumed, it’s simply dominating the sports drink market.
By the late 1960s, one of the researchers reached an agreement with a food manufacturer for U.S. production and sale. By the early 1980s, the NFL signed a licensing agreement to make Gatorade the official drink of the league.
Now, if you are training or competing at a high level, as I mentioned above, this may not matter to you. However, you must know that the sodium, sugar, and calories are all very high.
(For a moment, let’s throw out the fact that they have expanded the line to offer reduced sugar options – we’re speaking solely of the classic Gatorade.)
Ingredients in Gatorade Drinks
Again, you’ll find some variations and the brand constantly evolves, and even offers Gatorade Zero, which has no sugar. The formulas are made up of flavoring, electrolytes, dye, and other ingredients.
Here are a list of ingredients you’ll find in the sports drinks as well as their purpose:
- Water – for hydration
- Sugar – for fuel
- Dextrose – another sugar substitute that’s used for fuel
- Citric acid – for flavor
- Salt – this is where you get your sodium and it’s purpose is to provide electrolytes
- Sodium citrate – for flavor
- Monopotassium phosphate – for potassium
- Modified food starch – used as a stabilizing agent
- Natural flavor – for flavor
- Food dyes – for color purposes
- Glycerol ester of rosin – used as a stabilizing agent
- Caramel color – food coloring
There is a new release called “G Organic,” and those contain only the following ingredients:
- Cane Sugar
- Citric Acid
- Natural Flavor
- Sea Salt
- Sodium Citrate
- Potassium Chloride
Some websites I surveyed made a big deal about food dyes used in Gatorade, but the FDA found nothing wrong with them, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole.
Now, let’s get to the reason I don’t personally drink Gatorade: Sugar.
Sugar Content in Gatorade
For me, I’ve found that as a forty-something male my body simply doesn’t react well to sugar. I have cut out the mix in my favorite mixed drinks and save them for very special occasions only. So long, margaritas, old fashioneds, and my favorite rum drinks. You can consume a can of regular Coca-Cola and get about the same amount of sugar as you’ll find in Gatorade!
Again, the added sugar is used to help endurance athletes get more out of their exercise by giving a bit of longevity to the workout. The human body will go through a lot of fuel types when you work out, and sugar is one of those forms of carbs the body uses as fuel.
When your body runs ow on carbohydrate reserves, you have that feeling of being exhausted. This is especially common with distance runners.
Salt in Gatorade
As someone with a chronic kidney condition, I really have to watch my salt intake. Salt leads to high blood pressure, which is a huge no-no for kidney patients like myself. However, salt offers electrolytes, and you’ll see this in many forms of refueling drinks such as Pedialyte.
This is because the sodium level helps get the body balanced.
Is Gatorade Bad for Children to Drink?
Again, unless your child is competing at a very high level, it’s just not necessary. Sure, there are scenarios that it could be said a 20 ounce bottle can really help a child. If you’ve ever spent a day in the Florida sun like I have watching your child play multiple soccer games, that would be one time I’m okay with it.
However, sugar in general leads to too many health issues, not to mention, minors love sugar (which is why they love ketchup on everything) and giving them sugar just caters to this addiction. (Not to mention the dental bills that come with cavities.)
The list of Gatorade alternatives is massive, and perhaps I’ll go through them over time and link them below, but for now, there is only one thing I like to add to my water, and that’s a sweetener I found on Amazon.
I think you have my take on drinking Gatorade – I like to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. A good old fashioned water can be just enough to keep you hydrated for quite a while. While it’s a bit boring, I like to cut up either lemon wedges and squeeze them into the water, or let it sit out overnight in a pitcher with cucumber or watermelon. There are many ways you can flavor water, and a lot of water sweeteners for sale on Amazon.com.