Plain water can be boring, and unlike colorful sports drinks like Gatorade, it doesn't contain electrolytes to replace those you lose when you sweat. Sports drinks, however, are higher in sugars and calories, which most people don't need any more of. Which beverage is best for you depends on the length and intensity of your exercise session and your workout conditions.
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Calorie and Nutrient Content
Water is calorie-free but also doesn't provide a significant amount of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. An 8-ounce glass of Gatorade has about 63 calories, most of which come from the 12.8 grams of sugar in this beverage. Each glass also provides trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, including 95 milligrams of sodium, or 4 percent of the daily value, as well as 1 percent or less of the DV for potassium and calcium. Keep in mind that a bottle has more than 8 ounces, so it's easy to drink quite a few calories as you quench your thirst. Lower-calorie versions of Gatorade are available as well, containing about 19 calories and 3.1 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving.
Unless you're exercising strenuously for more than an hour or in very hot conditions, water is all you need for rehydration, according to the AARP. Gatorade tends to be better for rehydration during moderately strenuous exercise, according to a study published in "Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore" in April 2008. Kayakers drinking water lost more weight and had a greater perceived rate of exertion than those drinking Gatorade.
Gatorade may be able to help you exercise longer than if you drank water, according to a study published in "Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism" in April 2008. Cyclists who drank Gatorade were better able to exercise and maintain their levels of leg force for two hours in the heat than those who drank water or didn't drink any beverage. A low-sodium version of a sports drink wasn't any more beneficial than water, however, so the sodium may be potentially responsible for these effects. Another study, published in the "Serbian Journal of Sports Sciences" in March 2011, also found performance-enhancing benefits for Gatorade compared to flavored water. It appears Gatorade helps keep your heart rate low and limits the accumulation of lactic acid, helping delay fatigue so you can exercise longer.
Potential Side Effects
Although Gatorade may be better than water for rehydration and exercise endurance, it has some potential adverse effects. A study published in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" in May 2005 found that runners who used sports drinks to rehydrate during a 39.6-mile run in cool temperatures were more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues, such as gas and acid reflux, than those who drank mineral water instead. There wasn't a difference in performance between the two groups. Unlike water, Gatorade may also increase the erosion of your teeth, according to a study published in the "Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice" in 2007. That study concluded Gatorade had more erosive potential than cola.