Gatorade was developed to improve the performance and endurance of athletes. (Resource 1) It effectively accomplishes the job by replacing fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. However, if you don't need the extra boost of sugar and minerals, drinking Gatorade may add more calories and sodium to your diet than you need, which could put your health at risk.
Role of Ingredients
Gatorade contains water to replace body fluids and carbs in the form of sugar for a surge of energy. It also has sodium and most Gatorade products supply potassium. (Refs 7, 8, 9 -- click on "Nutrition Label") You need sodium and potassium because they're electrolytes, which carry the electrical impulses that keep muscles and nerves working. (Ref 10, para 3) Sodium also regulates the amount of body fluids, including blood volume. (Ref 10, para 5) Both minerals are eliminated along with body fluids, but sodium is lost in the greatest amount, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. (Ref 1, pg 1, far right column, top para) When you sweat more than normal, exercise longer than 60 minutes, or you're sick with vomiting or diarrhea, you may need to restore fluids and electrolytes. (Ref 1, middle column, first para for 60 mins)
The number of calories and sugar you'll consume varies depending on which Gatorade product you choose. Low-calorie G2 Thirst Quencher has 7 grams of sugar and 30 calories in a 12-ounce serving. (Ref 8) The regular G-Series Thirst Quencher contains 21 grams of sugar and 80 calories in the same portion. (Ref 7) If you drink the G Series Sports Fuel Drink, you'll get more than three times the sugar and calories as a regular Thirst Quencher. (Ref 9 - values are for 118 ml, which is only 4 ounces) If your activity level does not justify the need for extra sugar, or if you don't limit the amount you consume, the added sugar and empty calories may contribute to weight gain.
Increased Risk for Hypertension
About 91 percent of all adults in the United States consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in their daily diet, reports the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." (Ref 3, para 4) By comparison, the Institute of Medicine recommends getting just 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. (Ref 2, pg 1) Chances are you do not need extra sodium unless you're losing more body fluids than normal. Gatorade Thirst Quencher has 160 milligrams of sodium in a 12-ounce serving, while the Sports Fuel Drink has three times that amount. (Refs 7 and 9) If Gatorade is your go-to drink any time you're thirsty, the extra sodium may increase your risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
Problems With Citric Acid
After water, sugar and dextrose, citric acid is the next most predominant ingredient in Gatorade. (Refs 7 and 8) The journal "Urological Research" reports that Gatorade has a pH of 2.9 to 3.2, which gives it about the same acidity as vinegar. (Ref 4, line 4 and Ref 5) Citric acid can erode your tooth enamel and increase the chance of developing cavities. A study that compared Gatorade to soft drinks found that Gatorade had a more negative effect on tooth enamel than carbonated cola drinks, according to a report in the "Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice" in November 2007. (Ref 6, para 4)
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Sport Drinks, Carbohydrate Gels and Energy Bars
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Sodium and Potassium Intakes Among US Adults: NHANES 2003-2008
- Urological Research: Effect of Two Sports Drinks on Urinary Lithogenicity
- Elmhurst College: pH Scale
- Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice: The Erosive Potential of Soft Drinks on Enamel Surface Substrate: An in Vitro Scanning Electron Microscopy Investigation
- Gatorade: G Series: Thirst Quencher
- Gatorade: G Series: Low-Calorie G2 Thirst Quencher
- Gatorade: G Series: Sports Fuel Drink
- Linus Pauling Institute: Sodium