Is Gatorade Good For Weight Loss

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Is Gatorade good for weight loss? Should you use it for losing fat? What about for strength training? This article aims to answer these questions and covers the benefits, drawbacks, and the best way to use Gatorade in your diet.

WHAT IS GATORADE?

Gatorade is a sports drink produced by the American manufacturer The Gatorade Company Inc. The Gatorade Thirst Quencher is the original Gatorade drink, available in Lemon Lime and Orange flavor variants. However, over the years, a huge range of flavor variations became available, based around other fruits. Now there are also several other lines of Gatorade available, for example, the Gatorade Frost range which is aimed at the wider consumer, instead of just players of competitive team sports. 

Gatorade was originally created by the University of Florida College of Medicine for the Florida Gators football team. The team had found players were suffering in performance and asked the university to help. The scientists at the University of Florida concluded that the athletes were suffering due to a loss of fluids and electrolytes through sweat. They, therefore, created an early iteration of Gatorade; a sports drink made up of water, sodium (salt), sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice. 

The Florida Gators began using this drink during practice and games to great success, and Gatorade’s popularity grew. The Florida Sports team won their first Orange Bowl in 1967 and attributed their victory to the new Gatorade drink. Soon after, the drink became the official sports drink of the NFL (the National Football League). What began as a drink created for a single sports team was becoming a popular beverage amongst the general public. When Micheal Jordan named Gatorade’s Citrus Cooler his favorite flavor in the early 1990s, the national popularity of Gatorade was secured. 

WHAT’S IN GATORADE?

The original Gatorade Thirst Quencher has almost the same ingredients as back in the 1960s. If you want to properly evaluate if Gatorade is good for you, and decide whether to choose it as your beverage when working out, then take a hard look at the ingredients and nutritional components of this sports drink. You need to know about the calories, sugar, and other important facts about Gatorade before using it to fuel your workouts.

If you look at the nutritional information on the side of a regular bottle of Gatorade, you’d find out the following information. Each serving contains 140 calories and 36 grams of carbohydrates. Of that 36, 34 grams come from sugar, which is very high and not much less than sugary soda like Coca Cola. Gatorade also contains 270mg of Sodium and 80mg of potassium, elements added to help you replace electrolytes lost through sweat. We’ll go into more detail about the benefits of these ingredients later on. 

The expansive range of Gatorade drinks all have a similar ingredients list, with differences mainly in color, flavors, and sugar content. For example, the G2 and Zero Gatorade drinks have half the regular quantity of sugar and zero sugar respectively, but other than that most Gatorade drinks share the same basic mixture of ingredients. 

The base of the drink, like most, is water, an important element of Gatorade to help the drinker rehydrate. Athletes and other active individuals lose a lot of fluid when working out through sweat, so replacing this lost water is one of the main jobs of a sports drink. The secondary ingredient in Gatorade is sugar, which as a simple carbohydrate can be quickly and efficiently used for fuel. You’ll also find dextrose in your Gatorade drinks, which is another form of sugar to give you energy. 

To flavor Gatorade and make it more appealing to thirsty gym-goers, citric acid is added to the drink. The sodium salt of citric acid, sodium citrate, is also added as a flavor enhancer. The electrolyte replenishing properties of Gatorade come from two ingredients; salt, and monopotassium phosphate. The sodium and potassium can help improve your athletic performance when you’ve lost too many electrolytes through sweat. 

These are all the primary active ingredients in a bottle of Gatorade, however, there are still a few more ingredients on the label. Stabilizing agents in the form of modified food starch and glycerol ester of rosin give Gatorade a longer shelf life, whilst natural flavor, food dyes, and caramel color food coloring can also be added. If you’re looking to consume Gatorade without any added chemicals, you could try the G Organic range with only 7 ingredients. 

SODIUM AND ELECTROLYTES IN GATORADE

When your body exerts a lot of energy, for example when competing in team sports or completing a killer workout at the gym, you can lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes through sweat. There are several different types of electrolytes you could lose through perspiration, but the main focus for athletes is sodium. Some people choose to replace these lost minerals by drinking sports drinks such as Gatorade, but how effective is this process? 

The sodium salt is added to Gatorade and many other sports beverages to help with electrolyte replacement. This is partly to prevent hyponatremia, which is a condition where the sodium levels in your blood can drop dangerously low. Hyponatremia is only likely to happen in extreme conditions, you would have to exercise incredibly hard and sweat profusely for this to be a danger. The main risk of developing hyponatremia is fluid overload, which is possible when drinking excessive amounts of water when exercising. This is why some athletes choose to consume sports drinks like Gatorade, to replace lost fluids and salts without risking a lack of sodium. 

Clearly Gatorade is beneficial in preventing your sodium levels from dropping, but just how likely is this situation? Most Gatorade drinkers won’t come near the intensity of exercise which would require this level of electrolyte replacement, which could mean the drink doesn’t benefit them. In fact, some of the other ingredients in Gatorade, namely sugar, can actually have a negative effect. Some athletes might want to try using Gatorade to alleviate cramping, as some research has linked muscle pains to sodium losses. However, most cramping is from other causes like neuromuscular fatigue, so Gatorade probably wouldn’t help. 

The electrolyte replacement due to sodium and potassium in Gatorade is highly effective, but that doesn’t make it necessary for most drinkers of the beverage. When it comes to everyday hydration, the sodium content of Gatorade could actually be detrimental. If you aren’t losing a lot of electrolytes through sweat, the additional salt can actually cause issues with high blood pressure. If you’re doing extended intense exercises, particularly at high temperatures, then Gatorade could improve your performance. Otherwise, this electrolyte replacement drink is largely unnecessary. 

Is Gatorade Good or Bad for You?

While Gatorade is one of the biggest brands in the sports drink industry, its nutritional merit is controversial. Is it a sugar-bomb that you should avoid at all costs? Or is it a nutritious option for hydration? The answer, as is the case with many nutrition debates, is not so simple.

Deciding whether you should drink Gatorade (or any sports beverage) depends on your health goals and philosophy, the amount and type of exercise you’re doing, and personal preference. Gatorade contains calories in the form of sugar to provide quick energy during exercise. It also contains electrolytes and was designed to help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. By and large, however, unless you are working out intensely for prolonged periods or are an elite athlete, you’re unlikely to truly need a drink like Gatorade.

Gatorade Nutrition Facts

While the ingredients, flavors, and colors have changed a bit since its inception in the 1960s, the nutritional components of Gatorade’s Original Thirst Quencher remain fairly similar. According to the brand site, a 20-ounce bottle contains:

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 270mg
  • Carbohydrates: 36g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 34g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Potassium: 75mg

History

Today, Gatorade is a very widely consumed, mass-manufactured beverage available in a rainbow of colors and flavors. The roots of the popular product, however, are grounded in helping a small football team succeed.

Back in 1965, the coach of the Florida Gators recruited researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine to help him with a challenge. The team was underperforming in extra hot conditions, and the coach wanted to understand why this was happening—as well as if anything could be done to correct it.

The researchers noted that the players had two issues: a lack of fluid and electrolytes to replace sweat losses, and a lack of carbohydrate for energy replenishment. With this data, they developed a custom drink—a mixture of sugar, salt, water, and citrus flavoring—to help the players hydrate and fuel more efficiently on the field, which they called “Gatorade.”

When the Gators won their first Orange Bowl in 1967, interest spiked in this seemingly magical beverage. 

By the late 1960s, one of the researchers reached an agreement with a food manufacturer for U.S. production and sale. By the early 1980s, the NFL signed a licensing agreement to make Gatorade the official drink of the league.

Since then, Gatorade has expanded into many product lines, sales have exploded, and Gatorade and sports seem to go hand in hand. Let’s take a closer look.

While the ingredients, flavors, and colors have changed a bit since its inception in the 1960s, the nutritional components of Gatorade’s Original Thirst Quencher remain fairly similar. According to the brand site, a 20-ounce bottle contains:

The calories, sugar, and sodium content in Gatorade may seem high at a quick glance—and they are—but these ingredients can be useful during prolonged endurance exercise.

Ingredients

Gatorade now has many different beverage lines, including the original, Flow, Fierce, Frost, G Organic, G2 (with half the sugar), and Zero (no sugar). Aside from the varying sugar content and flavor intensity, these drinks share a similar makeup of electrolytes, flavors, dyes, and other ingredients.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s in a typical bottle as well as the intended purposes of these basic ingredients:

  • Water, for fluid to help hydrate
  • Sugar, for fuel
  • Dextrose, another type of sugar added for fuel
  • Citric acid, for flavor
  • Salt, for electrolyte replenishment
  • Sodium citrate, the sodium salt of citric acid to improve the flavor
  • Monopotassium phosphate, adds potassium for electrolyte replacement
  • Modified food starch, stabilizing agent
  • Natural flavor, for flavor
  • Food dyes, for color
  • Glycerol ester of rosin, stabilizing agent
  • Caramel color, food coloring, used in some products

One exception is the G Organic drinks which are certified organic and only contain seven ingredients: water, cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavor, sea salt, sodium citrate, and potassium chloride.

Food Dyes in Gatorade

Gatorade is known for its brightly colored drinks but some question the safety of the dyes used to make them, raising concerns about whether the ingredients might pose risks, such as for cancer or hyperactivity.1 However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the science and concluded that the food colors used in Gatorade, such as Red 40 or Yellow 5, are safe to consume.2

If you decide to avoid these chemicals but are still interested in drinking Gatorade, not all of their products contain artificial colors. G Organic, its organic sports drink line, does not contain any artificial food dyes.

Sugar in Gatorade

One of the frequent criticisms of Gatorade is that it contains too much sugar. The standard Gatorade Original Thirst Quencher includes 36 grams of carbohydrate in a 20-ounce bottle, almost as much sugar as a 12-ounce can of soda.

The reason Gatorade includes so much sugar is that sugar can be useful during prolonged exercise. When you’re exercising, your body is typically using a blend of fuel types for energy, including sugar (a simple, sweet-tasting form of carbohydrate). 

For example, on a long-distance run, your body uses stored fat and carbohydrate to provide energy for your muscles. However, your carbohydrate reserves are far more limited compared to fat. For many athletes, running low on that stored carbohydrate is the equivalent of “hitting the wall.”

When you drink a sports drink (or eat an energy chew or have another quick mid-workout snack), the sugar provides some quickly accessible carbohydrates for fast energy. This can translate into better performance and longer endurance. However, this is most relevant to serious athletes who are exercising for longer periods and with intensity.

Sugar in Gatorade for Casual Athletes

So, what about those who are just sipping Gatorade throughout the day? Or all the kids (and adults) enjoying the drink during or after their soccer or baseball games or just with an afternoon snack?

In those cases, water is enough to hydrate. However, Gatorade may be considered a treat or a substitution for water on very hot days when kids are playing sports outside. 

Casual consumption of Gatorade and other sweetened beverages can be problematic because sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonades, and sweet tea have been associated with obesity, weight gain, and other health problems.

Research shows a huge spike in sweetened drink consumption over the past few decades and links this change to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.

Salt in Gatorade

Similar to the sugar in Gatorade, salt is added to Gatorade for enhanced athletic performance. When you sweat, your body loses both fluid and electrolytes. Though several electrolytes are lost in sweat, the primary one that you need to worry about is sodium.

Sodium helps to regulate fluid balance in the body. Some point out that drinking only water during prolonged exercise may contribute to the risk of hyponatremia, a dangerous drop in blood sodium levels. However, this is very unlikely to be an issue unless you’re participating in extreme workouts and sweating profusely.

Also, it should be noted that the primary risk factor for hyponatremia is fluid overload.

Some athletes also anecdotally link sodium losses to cramping. While most research suggests that cramping is due to neuromuscular fatigue, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try upping your electrolyte intake to see if it alleviates your cramping concerns.

So, the sodium in Gatorade can indeed be beneficial during exercise—especially exercise in the heat when sweat and sodium are lost at a higher rate. However, from an everyday hydration standpoint, it’s not particularly healthy to consume sodium in the beverages you sip on outside of exercise. In fact, taking in excess sodium through these drinks may be linked to issues like high

blood pressure.

The ‘good’ of Gatorade

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

Electrolytes are minerals that maintain your body’s ionic balance. This balance is essential for nerve, muscle, and brain functioning. An imbalance may lead to an electrolyte disorder.

Examples of electrolytes include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • chloride
  • phosphate
  • potassium
  • sodium

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

Some research backs their claims. A report from the University of California at Berkeley says that sports drinks might be better than water for children and athletes who engage in prolonged, vigorous physical activity for more than one hour, especially in hot conditions.

However, you should note that people exercising for less than 60 to 90 minutes may not need Gatorade to maintain or improve performance.

So, what about use of sports drinks for the average person?

The ‘bad’ of Gatorade

The vast majority of people who drink Gatorade aren’t 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.

A 20-ounce serving of Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher contains 36 grams of sugar. While that’s a bit less sugar per ounce than your average soda, it’s not exactly healthy.

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

When consumed often, the sugar content of Gatorade can also contribute to tooth decay, especially in children.

For people who are less active, getting extra sugar and sodium throughout the day isn’t necessary or recommended. The extra calories from a sports drink could contribute to weight gain. The extra sodium could increase the risk of high blood pressure over time.

Gatorade’s low-calorie version, G2, substitutes acesulfame and sucralose for sugar. G2 contains 40 calories for every 16 ounces, which is fewer than half the calories of regular Gatorade. Research on the long-term safety of these artificial sweeteners is ongoing, but not yet conclusive.

Also of importance to note is that Gatorade contains food dyes, such as Red No. 40, Blue No. 1, and Yellow No. 5. These artificial dyes are derived from petroleum and may increase the risk of hyperactivity in children. They’ve also been linked to cancerTrusted Source.

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