is gatorade good for you

Gatorade is a sports drink which helps people to replenish their body with fluid, electrolytes, and carbs after an intense workout. It is popular among athletes and people who do heavy exercises as it helps them to stay hydrated and energized. While this sports drink is beneficial, it comes with a whole list of side effects also.

Gatorade is packed with sugar, which can lead to a raised risk of heart disease and obesity.  However, this does not mean that Gatorade is bad for everyone. Athletes can benefit from taking sports drinks in moderation. Let us find out more about the benefits and the risks of drinking Gatorade.

History of Gatorade

Gatorade is today one of the most popular sports drink in the world. It was created to help out football players succeed in the field. In 1965 a University of Florida coach found that his players were getting affected by the extreme heat and were underperforming. He asked the university physicians to determine the cause of this problem.

The researchers – Dr. Robert Cade, Dr. Dana Shires, Dr. H. James Free, and Dr. Alejandro de Quesada- discovered that the loss of fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat and a large number of carbohydrates were causing the Florida Gator players to wilt. With this information, the researchers scientifically formulated a new carbohydrate-electrolyte balanced beverage that would adequately replace the key components lost by the players. They called this drink ‘Gatorade.’

After the players started drinking Gatorade, they started winning. In 1966 season they won the Orange Bowl for the first time in the history of the school. Soon after the success of this drink, the researchers made an agreement with a food manufacturer for its production and sale in the US. By the 1980s, the NFL signed a licensing agreement to make Gatorade the official drink of the league.

Nutrition facts of Gatorade

A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade thirst quencher Lemon-lime contains –

  • Calories – 140
  • Carbohydrates – 36 grams
  • Sugar – 34 grams
  • Protein – 0
  • Fat – 0
  • Sodium – 270 mg
  • Potassium – 75 mg

Electrolytes

Gatorade contains essential electrolytes or minerals that help to regulate nerves, muscles, and hydration levels. Sodium and potassium help the muscles to contract.

Sugar

Gatorade is often criticized for containing a lot of sugar.  A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 34 grams of sugar, which is almost the same amount as a 16-ounce can of soda. Sugar is a form of carbohydrate that provides energy for our muscles. When an athlete drinks a sports drink, he gets quick energy, which helps him to improve his endurance and performance.

Benefits of Gatorade

1. Provides energy

There are 36 grams of carbohydrates in a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Athletes eat a diet rich in carbs during the days leading up to a sports event. So, Gatorade provides energy which may be depleted during practice sessions.

2. Prevents dehydration

Loss of water due to sweat can lead to dehydration, which causes muscle weakness, headaches, dizziness, low blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. Gatorade is rich in sodium, which helps maintain the water balance in the body.

3. Prevents muscle cramping

During strenuous physical exercise, our body loses potassium. Potassium plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure, muscle control, and nerve function. Gatorade contains potassium, which is very useful for athletes as it prevents muscle cramping.

Side effects of Gatorade

Like any other drink, Gatorade is safe to drink in moderation. However, if you drink too much Gatorade, it can lead to side effects.

1. Not meant for physically inactive people

Sports drinks are designed for serious athletes. However, most people who drink sports drinks regularly aren’t very physically active.

Gatorade is beneficial for athletes who are engaged in high-intensity exercise for an extended period. According to an article published in Sports Medicine, athletes can lose as much as 500 mg of sodium for every pound of sweat they secrete (3).  Gatorade contains 270 grams of sodium in a 20-ounce bottle.  So, it makes sense for such people to replenish their sodium with drinks like Gatorade to prevent muscle cramps.

If you are not an athlete and are not exercising as heavily, then filling your body with so much sodium may lead to side effects. Extra sodium in your diet can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure (4).

2. Excess sugar can cause health problems

Gatorade also contains sugar. A 20-ounce bottle contains 34 grams of added sugar. People involved in strenuous activities and sports are able to burn off this extra sugar without any difficulties. For people who exercise for less than an hour, it can cause complications.

According to the American Heart Association, women should not consume more than six teaspoons of sugar in a day, and men should not consume more than nine teaspoons of sugar in a day (5). Not only does excessive amounts of sugar lead to obesity and diabetes, but it can also have a severe impact on heart health.

3. May lead to cancer and hyperactivity

Gatorade comes in various flavors that are identifiable by the different bright colors that this drink is available in.  There have been some concerns about the use of food dyes in Gatorade. Some studies have linked the use of food dyes with cancer and hyperactivity in children (1, 2).

The FDA, on the other hand, approves the use of dyes like Red 40 or Yellow 5 that are used in Gatorade. Some Gatorade products, like G Organic, their organic sports drink line, do not contain any artificial food dyes.

Should children drink Gatorade?

Sports drinks are trendy among kids. Many marketing campaigns for these drinks are targeted towards children. But the truth is that most children do not need these drinks. Most children do not exercise so strenuously or for an extended period that it requires the use of sports drinks. Children often drink sports drinks after school or with their lunch or dinner.

Instead of sports drinks, children should be drinking water to rehydrate their bodies. According to a study published in the Journal Pediatrics in 2018, 57% percent of adolescents drank a sports drink at least once in the previous week. Almost 14% of these children drank a sports drink daily (6).

Most pediatricians believe that they should not drink sports drinks regularly and should drink them only when they are playing vigorous sports.

The biggest problem with sports drinks is that they contain sugar and calories, which can lead to issues with sedentary children. Drinking sports drinks without exercise can increase the intake of sugar and sodium. All that excess sugar can contribute to obesity. Prolonged consumption of sports drinks can also lead to tooth decay in children.

Is Gatorade with less sugar better?

Due to the concerns about the high sugar content in their sports drink, Gatorade came up with sports drink Gatorade Zero and Gatorade G2. While Gatorade zero has no sugar and just ten calories, Gatorade G2 has half the amount of sugar and calories as the original formula. While these drinks do not address the problems related to high sugar and calorie content, they have their issues. These products use artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium in place of sugar.

Though FDA approves the use of these sweeteners, many studies have shown that they can be detrimental to health.  According to the Center of Science in Public Interest, animal-based studies have shown that both acesulfame potassium and sucralose can increase the risk of cancer (7).

According to the findings of a 2017 review, both human and animal studies show that artificial sweeteners can contribute to metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic. These sweeteners appear to change the host microbiome, lead to decreased satiety and alter glucose homeostasis and are linked to increased caloric consumption and weight gain (8).

Recipe for a homemade sports drink

Avoid artificial color and sugar and make your own healthy sports drinks. Here’s a recipe for a healthy and tasty sports drink –

Ingredients –

  • Water – 3 cups
  • Orange juice – 1 cup
  • Lemon juice – ½ cup
  • Honey – 3 tablespoons
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon

Method

Put all these ingredients in a blender and mix well. Place it in the refrigerator to chill and enjoy.

Final thoughts

While Gatorade is beneficial for athletes who are engaged in high-intensity exercise for an extended period, it is not essential for people who exercise moderately or are not physically active. For such people, water is enough to keep them hydrated.

Gatorade helps athletes by providing them energy, preventing dehydration, and reducing muscle cramps. For people who are not as physically active, Gatorade can lead to obesity due to its high sugar content. It can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure as it contains sodium. The presence of food dyes in Gatorade has also been a matter of concern. Some studies have linked food dyes with cancer and hyperactivity in children.

Since most children are not involved in strenuous exercise, they should avoid drinking Gatorade. Prolonged usage of sports drinks can lead to obesity and tooth decay in children. A healthy diet and water are the best sources of nutrition and hydration of children.