Physical activity, like exercise, raises your heart rate, and dehydrates you. To perform at the top of your game, whether you love to pump iron at the gym or you're a professional football player, staying hydrated is crucial. But with all the "replenishing" sports drinks available on the market today, which should you turn to?
If you take a stroll down the sports drink aisle at your local grocery store, you'll quickly notice that there are a ton of products to pick from. However, in particular, there are two brands that stand out as the most popular sports drinks to keep dehydration at bay: Powerade and Gatorade. Each mineral-rich beverage promises to keep you at the top of your game by replenishing electrolytes and other valuable nutrients, but the million-dollar question, of course, is - which sports drink is better? Let's find out!
What's a Sports Drink?
Before we dive right into the nitty-gritty of these two popular sports drinks, let's first cover the basics - what exactly is a sports drink, anyways?
Sports drinks are defined by these primary ingredients, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, generally with the addition of a substantial amount of water. Each of these essential ingredients is important for its own reasons, but all are connected to the effects of physical activity.
For example, carbohydrates are burned during activity. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that you should consume carbs prior to any exercise exceeding one hour. They also recommend consuming carbs during exercise if your workout is intense. This might include hiking uphill alongside a mountain, running a marathon, or playing very active sports like basketball. The recommendation for sports drinks consumption is 150 to 200 milliliters for every 15 to 20 minutes of activity beyond your first hour.
Electrolytes, on the other hand, are essential minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge. They play very important roles in several physical processes, including muscular function, your body's regulation of pH levels and hydration levels.
You naturally lose electrolytes in your sweat, so physical activity is incredibly taxing. The most common electrolytes in the body include:
Gatorade was created as a solution to fix a problem. The assistant coach of the University of Florida's football team noticed his players were adversely affected by the blistering heat of the Florida sun. Sluggishness, exhaustion, and dehydration plagued his players. So, in 1965, the coach asked one of the university's research teams if they could help. The researchers found that players were losing important minerals in their sweat, which weren't being replaced. The players were also burning through all of their carbohydrate stores and losing energy. To combat these effects, they created a drink called Gatorade (as in "Gator -Aid" after the team name, "The Gators") This powerful drink went on to help The Gators outlast their opponents and bring home a win from the Orange Bowl for the first time. From then on, other teams began asking for the Gator's secret formula, which led to private sales, and the rest is history!
Now, Powerade doesn't exactly have the same uplifting, motivational origins as it's competitor, but it was developed in 1988 by Coca-Cola to rival Gatorade. Coca-Cola promised Powerade had the same sports benefits of rehydration and went on to be named the official sports drinks of The Olympics that very same year. This catapulted Powerade into stores and into the hands of athletes around the world.
The Difference Between Gatorade and Powerade
Although quite similar, Gatorade and Powerade do have some key differences. Let's take a look at each nutritional component of these popular drinks and find where the most significant differences lie.
We will look at the following three categories to compare:
- Vitamins and minerals
Both Gatorade and Powerade contain around 25g of carbohydrates per 12oz serving. However, the ingredients that deliver these carbs are different. While Gatorade uses dextrose and sucrose - which are simple sugars easily digested by the body - Powerade's carbohydrates come from high-fructose corn syrup.
High-fructose corn syrup has been used for decades as a sweetener in processed foods. However, over the years, it has been demonized by medical professionals and nutritionists for being associated with many health risks, including increased abdominal fat - and who wants to deal with that?
Bottom line - carbs are good for athletic performance. Just make sure you are getting them from the right sources. However, if you happen to be following a low-carb diet like keto, neither sports drink is ideal because of the high carb content. Reach for an electrolyte supplement like Adapted Nutrition's Hi-Lyte Concentrate that is designed to be potent, fast-acting, and easily absorbed by the body - without the carbs.
Although Powerade and Gatorade contain similar amounts of electrolytes, Gatorade does have 10mg more potassium and 10mg more than its rival, making it slightly more adept at replacing the electrolytes you lose when you exercise.
Vitamins and Minerals
Gatorade may have beat Powerade in the carbohydrate and electrolyte categories, but Powerade wins when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Both sports drinks contain small amounts of about a dozen or so different vitamins and minerals, but Powerade has added much more significant amounts of vitamins like B-3, B-6, and B-12 to it's formula to promote better energy production within the body.
Now you've got a detailed understanding of the nutritional value of each drink - but how does all of that relate to how thirsty you are after crushing a strenuous workout?
Basically, the loss of electrolytes is what causes dehydration. Due to this, the sports drink that is the most adept at replacing all of those essential electrolytes would be deemed more effective at controlling thirst and body dehydration.
So, what's the best sports drink, you might ask?
The answer is Gatorade. Electrolytes are important. Plain and simple. Since Gatorade has a higher electrolyte concentrate than Powerade, it's easy to see why it's the superior sports drink.
At the end of the day, whether you use Gatorade, Powerade, or a potent electrolyte supplement like Adapted Nutrition's Hi-Lyte Concentrate, dehydration does not feel good. Always be sure to refuel with electrolytes to support your active lifestyle to keep you feeling at your best!