Gatorade and Powerade are the number one and number two sports drinks in America, respectively. Both brands have different flavors and lines. Gatorade has a line of three “performance” drinks for before, during and after exercise. Powerade offers ION4 and the ZERO calories series. Athletes who exercise and sweat for more than 60 minutes can benefit from the sports drinks’ carbohydrates, electrolytes and vitamins, which help aid in hydration and energy. Still, this does not always mean that the drinks are healthy for athletes.
The carbohydrates in Gatorade and Powerade fuel hydration and boost endurance in a way that water alone cannot if you are exercising for more than 60 minutes. Original Gatorade contains 21 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving. Powerade contains the carbohydrate glucose and the complex carbohydrate maltodextrin, which has several glucose units within it. According to The American College of Sports Medicine, the combination of carbohydrate sources may improve your body’s carbohydrate absorption because different routes in your body absorb different sugars.
Electrolytes keep your fluid levels in balance, help your muscles work, promote the uptake of fluid in the intestines and improve hydration. When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes, especially sodium. Gatorade and Powerade both contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium. A 12-ounce serving of Gatorade has 160 milligrams of sodium and 45 milligrams of potassium. An 8-ounce serving of Powerade ION4 has 100 milligrams of sodium and 25 milligrams of potassium.
Most types of Gatorade do not contain vitamins, but Gatorade Prime contains 10 percent of the daily value of the vitamins B-3, B-5 and B-6. B vitamins help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose, which the body burns as fuel for energy. B-3 helps the body make stress-related hormones, improves circulation and reduces cholesterol levels in the blood. B-5 helps manufacture red blood cells, sex- and stress-related hormones, and it helps the body maintain a healthy digestive tract. Vitamin B-6 helps maintain the blood sugar.
Powerade also contains three B vitamins. An 8-ounce serving of Powerade ION4 provides 10 percent of the daily value for vitamins B-3, B-6 and B-12. B-12 helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA.
Because Gatorade and Powerade contain sugar and calories that plain water does not, you should only drink Powerade in moderation when you are sweating for more than 60 minutes. The calories and sugar can cause weight gain and the sugar is bad for your teeth. Gatorade and Powerade may contain several servings per bottle, so you must be careful to watch your portion size. For the healthiest option, look for the low-calorie versions of the sports drinks. Except when you’re exercising and sweating for more than 60 minutes, water is the best choice for hydration.
- ABC News: PowerAde's Zero-calorie Sports Drink Takes on Gatorade
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Sports Drinks, Carbohydrate Gels and Energy Bars
- Gatorade: Original G
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-12
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B3 --Niacin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B5 -- Pantothenic Acid
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B6 -- Pyridoxine