What Does Gatorade Do to Your Body?

A woman drinks Gatorade in the locker room after a workout.
Image Credit: Hans Neleman/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Gatorade was the original sports drink, created in a collaboration between medical professionals and a football coach at the University of Florida. From the very start, they set out to develop a beverage that would boost the endurance and the performance of athletes. The final result was a drink that delivers carbohydrates for sustained energy and replaces the fluids and electrolytes that are lost through heavy sweating.

Replenish Electrolytes

Minerals called electrolytes, which include sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, are vital for your health. Electrolytes are responsible for making your muscles and nerves work. They regulate your heart beat and maintain the proper volume of body fluids. While all of the electrolytes are eliminated from your body along with fluids, you lose more sodium than the others, especially when you sweat heavily due to activity, heat or illness. Gatorade is formulated to replace sodium and potassium. The Gatorade G Series Thirst Quencher products supply 160 milligrams of sodium and 45 milligrams of potassium in a 12-ounce serving.

Energize with Carbs

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. With 21 grams of carbs in a 12-ounce serving, Gatorade Thirst Quencher meets this carb recommendation. Drinking 1.5 cups to 4 cups of Gatorade every hour should give you the carbs needed to sustain your physical activity. Another product that provides carbs but not electrolytes -- Gatorade Sports Fuel Drink -- contains 25 grams of carbs in a 4-ounce serving.

Stay Hydrated

Water is the primary ingredient in Gatorade, which makes it a good choice for preventing dehydration. Beyond providing fluid, Gatorade has an advantage over plain water because the absorption of water depends on the presence of sodium. This means that the sodium in Gatorade improves the rate of water absorption, so your body replenishes water more quickly. Sodium also helps you retain more fluid. The variety of Gatorade flavors may motivate you to drink more than regular water. Staying hydrated helps you maintain optimal athletic performance, which drops if you lose as little as 1 percent of your body weight due to sweating, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Prevent Muscle Cramps

The ingredients in Gatorade can help you avoid muscle cramps. Sodium and potassium work together to stimulate muscle contractions. If the levels of either electrolyte drop too low due to excessive loss of body fluids, you may experience muscle cramps and weakness. Dehydration can also lead to muscle cramps. In fact, not getting enough fluids is the most common cause of muscle cramps during sports activities, reports MedlinePlus. Once again, the combination of water and sodium in Gatorade is more beneficial than water alone because salt is often needed to help ease or prevent cramping.

Consider Calories and Sugar

Gatorade contains sugar, which delivers the quick energy your muscles need during extended activity, but it also adds calories. This could be a drawback if you're not active enough to burn the extra calories. A 12-ounce serving of Thirst Quencher contains 21 grams of sugar and 80 calories. Your risk for cavities increases in proportion to the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages you drink, so rinse your mouth with water as soon as possible after drinking Gatorade.