We know runners need electrolytes, but it’s natural to worry about sugary energy drinks causing more harm than good. Is Gatorade good for runners? Let’s dig in.
Gatorade’s marketing material says that the popular sports beverage was “born in the lab.” The researchers at Gatorade wanted to understand what causes athletes to become ill after exercising strenuously in the heat, so is Gatorade good for runners then? The researchers found that when athletes perform strenuous exercise, many lose fluid and electrolytes and fail to replace them sufficiently; the sports drink was developed to replace carbohydrates and crucial electrolytes while offering hydration.
What Are The Main Ingredients In Gatorade?
Harvard Health Publishing reports that Gatorade was created for the University of Florida Gators football team in the 1960s. In the early days of the sports drink, the ingredients were mostly sugar, salt, and lemon flavoring. These days, Gatorade’s ingredients are more complex. Most sports drinks have carbohydrates and minerals such as potassium and sodium.
Here are some of the ingredients listed on a Gatorade label.
- Citric acid
- Monopotassium phosphate
- Sodium citrate
- Glycerol ester of rosin
- Gum arabic
The American Chemical Society notes that Gatorade’s sugar gives the sports drink its sweet taste and helps increase water absorption speed in the intestines. Check out our explainer on should you drink Gatorade before or after a run.
Below, we outline some of the benefits of Gatorade and similar sports drinks.
- The electrolytes in sports drinks help your body maintain its ionic balance. This balance is important for brain, nerve, and muscle functioning. If out of balance, you can suffer from electrolyte disorder.
- Carbohydrates and electrolytes can help athletes rehydrate and refuel. Carbohydrates provide energy, and electrolytes help your body maintain its fuel balance.
- One report from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that in some cases, sports drinks may be better for athletes than water if those athletes engage in vigorous, prolonged physical activity in hot conditions for more than an hour.
There are some downsides to drinking Gatorade.
- People exercising for 90 minutes or less probably don’t need Gatorade to improve or maintain their performance.
- Most people who drink Gatorade aren’t elite athletes doing strenuous activity.
- A bottle of Gatorade has 36 grams of sugar, slightly less sugar than in soft drinks.
- Sports drinks may contribute to America’s child obesity epidemic because parents unknowingly provide their children with too much sugar in the form of liquids.
- Sugar causes tooth decay, especially in children.
- Gatorade’s extra sodium and sugar do more harm than good if you’re not a power athlete.
- Excessive sodium can increase high blood pressure risk when consumed regularly over time.
- Low-calorie sports drinks contain sucralose and acesulfame instead of sugar. The research on these sugar alternatives is inconclusive.
- Sports drinks can contain unnecessary food dyes derived from petroleum. These ingredients have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children.
Final Word: Is Gatorade Good For Runners?
The short answer is that if you’re running long distances, Gatorade can help you recover and regain energy after your run. Equally important, drinking Gatorade can help if you need to soothe sore muscles. You might find our guide on what to eat the day before a marathon helpful.
Here are some guidelines to know how to hydrate and replace electrolytes when running.
- Runs up to 60 minutes (option 1): Electrolyte tablets dissolved in water, such as CamelBak Elixir, Nuun, or Zym Endurance.
- Runs up to 60 minutes (option 2): Low-calorie sports drink such as G2, Luna Sport Electrolyte Splash, Crystal Light Hydration, or PowerAde Zero. These low-calorie sports drinks are low in carbs, so they won’t fuel your muscles for longer runs.
- 1-2 hour runs: Regular sports drinks like Gatorade, Cytomax, GU20, Gleukos, or PowerAde.
- 2+ hour runs: Endurance sports drinks such as Gatorade Endurance Formula or PowerBar Endurance. These sports drinks provide extra electrolytes and can even help prevent cramps.
FAQs About Is Gatorade Good For Runners?
Should I drink gatorade before or after a run?
After a long run, having a bottle of Gatorade will help you quickly replace electrolytes and regain energy.
What drink is best for running?
The best drink to have regularly is water. You can use Gatorade some if you’re producing lots of sweat, but water is the key to staying hydrated. If you’re running short distances, stick with water. If you’re running marathons or other long distances, you can supplement with Gatorade.
Is gatorade better than water for running?
Gatorade is a great option for quick rehydration, but nothing beats water when it comes to natural hydration. Gatorade has a lot of sugar, and adding more sugar to your diet isn’t a good idea except for the occasional quick fix. Drinking plenty of water keeps your body balanced.