How healthy is Gatorade

Gatorade banned in Germany? Is Gatorade Unhealthy?

According to Gatorade's website, the drink was "born in the laboratory" when researchers studied why athletes got sick after strenuous exercise in the heat.

They found that these athletes lost electrolytes and fluids through exertion, but did not replace them. Gatorade is designed to replace vital electrolytes and carbohydrates while keeping them hydrated.

While it is marketed as a sports drink, athletes aren't the only ones drinking Gatorade. Kids drink it with lunch or after soccer practice, and it has even developed a reputation as a hangover cure.

But while Gatorade may have less sugar than soda, is it really good for you?

The 'good' from Gatorade

When you exercise, it's important to stay hydrated. Water is the most logical form of hydration. However, sports drinks like Gatorade contain sugars and electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Sports drinks can help replace what we lose with prolonged exercise, especially in the heat.

Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain your body's ionic balance. This balance is important for the functioning of nerves, muscles and the brain. An imbalance can lead to an electrolyte imbalance.

Examples of electrolytes are:

  • Calcium
  • magnesium
  • chloride
  • phosphate
  • potassium
  • sodium

Electrolytes and carbohydrates help athletes refuel and rehydrate. This is what makes sports drinks so popular. Electrolytes help regulate the body's fluid balance, while carbohydrates provide energy. Gatorade claims their product hydrates better than water because of these additional ingredients.

Some research supports their claims. A report from the University of California at Berkeley said that sports drinks might be better than water for children and athletes who exercise for more than an hour, especially in hot conditions.

However, you should note that individuals who exercise for less than 60 to 90 minutes do not need Gatorade to maintain or improve performance.

So what about sports drink usage for the average person?

The 'evil' of Gatorade

The vast majority of people who drink Gatorade are not athletes. And, according to the Berkeley study, most people who drink sports drinks at least once a day aren't as physically active as they should be.

One serving of Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher contains 36 grams of sugar. While that's slightly less sugar per ounce than your average soda, it's not exactly healthy.

In fact, Berkeley researchers say the sugar in sports drinks may contribute to the child obesity epidemic by increasing caloric intake.

With frequent consumption, Gatorade's sugar content can also contribute to tooth decay, especially in children.

For people who are less active, it is not necessary or recommended to have extra sugar and sodium throughout the day. The extra calories from a sports drink can contribute to weight gain. The extra sodium could increase your risk of high blood pressure over time.

Gatorade's low-calorie version, G2, replaces acesulfame and sucralose with sugar. G2 contains 40 calories per 16 ounces, which is less than half the calories of the regular Gatorade. Research into the long-term safety of these artificial sweeteners is ongoing, but not yet final.

Also important is that Gatorade contains food colors like Red # 40, Blue # 1, and Yellow # 5. These artificial colors are made from petroleum and can increase the risk of hyperactivity in children. They have also been linked to cancer.

Make the right decision for your children

While Gatorade can help you stay hydrated, it's best to drink it only when you need it.

For people who don't exercise for at least an hour five days a week, water is the best choice for staying hydrated. Electrolytes from natural sources with no added sugar or coloring are recommended.

Experts recommend parents limit their consumption of sports drinks like Gatorade due to their sugar content and artificial colors.

A researcher who has worked with Gatorade in the past told NPR that Gatorade shouldn't be called the "bad guy." She stressed that parents need to evaluate sugar consumption from all sources when helping their child make the healthiest choices.

For most children, water remains the best source of hydration. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carbohydrates and electrolyte replacements.