Gatorade is sold as an exercise enhancement drink. It contains rehydrating electrolytes but also has a high concentration of sugar. With this in mind, is drinking Gatorade good or bad for people’s health and sports performance?
Gatorade is classified as a “sports drink.” Scientists at the University of Florida developed the drink in 1965 with the aim of boosting the performance of their football team, called the Gators. In 1967, the Gators won the Orange Bowl for the first time in years.
Gatorade contains electrolytes to rehydrate people and provide energy. However, it also contains high levels of sugar, which can increase people’s health risks.
According to Healthy Eating Research in 2012, people’s intake of sugary drinks has increased significantly in the last 3 decades. Drinking sugary sports drinks, such as Gatorade, is associated with:
- weight gain
- poor diet
- switching from healthful drinks
- raised risk of diabetes and obesity
Still, this alone does not mean that Gatorade is bad for a person’s health. People can consume moderate amounts of Gatorade or other sports drinks and experience no negative effects.
Serious athletes and people who do heavy exercise may even see benefits from drinking Gatorade, as well as water.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the benefits and the risks of drinking Gatorade.
Should you drink Gatorade or water after sports?
Both Gatorade and water will help the body regain fluid lost through exercise and other physical activity. The difference is that manufacturers add additional elements, such as sugar and electrolytes, to Gatorade and other sports drinks.
Electrolytes are minerals, such as potassium and sodium, that have an impact on a person’s muscles, brain, and nerves.
When a person exercises, they lose not only water but also electrolytes through their sweat. Gatorade, because of its electrolyte content, helps to restore the lost electrolytes and keep a person hydrated, during intense activity. It can also replace electrolytes, during times of illness, such as stomach viruses.
Gatorade was designed to help serious athletes perform better on the field. There is no shortage of research, largely funded by Gatorade and other sports drinks, to support these claims.
According to SugarScience by the University of California, Berkeley there are more than 300 research articles about sports drinks available. Of these, it is difficult to find research not funded heavily by industry stakeholders, including Gatorade. When these bodies fund research into their own products, reviewers widely regard it as a conflict of interest.
For example, an independent review of research from 2007 discovered that fully industry-funded research studies were significantly more likely to find favorable results than studies with no industry funding.
A research review from the University of California, Berkley in 2014 points out that most researchers are basing their results on the performance of serious athletes. Therefore, serious athletes competing or exercising for longer than an hour at a time may find Gatorade offers benefits that water does not.
However, scientists do not recommend Gatorade or other sports drinks, in most circumstances, for the average person or child, exercising or competing for less than an hour.