Powerade and Gatorade are brands of sports energy drinks, but although they share many similarities, such as the inclusion of electrolytes, nutritional differences set the two brands apart from each other. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each brand will help you select the perfect drink for your workout.
Both Powerade and Gatorade beverages contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar that replenishes energy during or after a workout. The original "Thirst Quencher" Gatorade and the traditional Powerade brands each contain 21 grams of sugar per 12-fluid-ounce serving, making them equal providers of the easily digestible nutrients. The type of sugar in each drink differs, however. Gatorade contains sucrose, also known as table sugar, and dextrose, another simple sugar compound, while Powerade's sugar content comes from high-fructose corn syrup. Studies have not definitively shown that one sugar is better than the other during a workout, but high-fructose corn syrup is associated with health risks such as increased abdominal fat when consumed in excessive quantities.
Vitamins and Electrolytes
In addition to providing carbohydrates, both sports drinks contain vitamins, minerals and electrolytes designed to maintain healthy muscular responses and energy distribution. Sodium and potassium are essential electrolytes that maintain water distribution in the body but are lost through sweat during exercise. Gatorade contains 160 milligrams of sodium and 45 milligrams of potassium per serving, while Powerade contains 150 milligrams of sodium and 35 milligrams of potassium per serving. By comparison, Gatorade is slightly superior at replacing lost electrolytes. Powerade features added vitamin B-3, B-6 and B-12 for improved energy production and distribution in the body.
In addition to their respective traditional beverages, both Powerade and Gatorade have a wide range of specialty flavors and mixtures. For instance, Gatorade features low-calorie beverages with only 7 grams of sugar per serving, as well as special drinks for endurance athletes with 300 milligrams of sodium and 140 milligrams of potassium. Powerade features beverages that have zero calories and that offer electrolytes and vitamins but zero grams of sugar.
The Best All-Around Choice
Gatorade and Powerade have equal carbohydrate content and nearly equal electrolyte content, although Powerade has a slightly higher vitamin content. If you are running marathon distances or if you require fewer grams of sugar during exercise, Gatorade's specialty beverages are likely the best choices. Otherwise, the competition comes down to personal preference. Do note, however, that electrolyte replacement drinks are intended for athletes losing copious amounts of sweat over a period of hours. Most casual athletes and recreational exercisers perform best with water as the hydrating liquid of choice.