Sports Dietitian Picks: What is the Best Gatorade Product?

As a Sports Dietitian, one of the questions I most commonly get from athletes is “Is Gatorade healthy?”. With so many sports drinks on the market, it can be hard to know which one to pick that is the best Gatorade product right for you.

In this blog, I will be focusing on Gatorade products and what Gatorade is best for athletes to use during their training and competitions. Below, I will go through the different components that need to be present in a sports drink and how 6 popular Gatorade products rank.

Athlete Drinking Gatorade

What are the essential components of a sports drink?

With so many options on the market, you may wonder what makes each product different. It’s important to remember that sports drink companies make a variety of products. These products are not all created equal so it’s important to understand the components of a sports drink so you can pick the right one for you!  Here are the 3 main components to look for in a sports beverage for optimum hydration. 

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are charged particles (ions) in the body that influence all of the chemical reactions that occur inside us. The main electrolytes consist of sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These ions are found within the water of our bodies, and they help to maintain fluid balance inside and outside our cells. 

We lose electrolytes through sweating, urine, or vomiting. Most athletes lose the majority of electrolytes through sweat. When you sweat, you lose more sodium and chloride (aka salt) than other electrolytes, with only small amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium lost. Replacing electrolytes is very important when you are undergoing high-intensity training to make sure the correct balance of electrolytes remains intact. 

The amount of electrolytes that you need depends on how much you are sweating and what concentration of electrolytes you sweat out. This is different for everyone! However, if you are losing a significant amount of water weight during training (more than 2% of your body weight), including some type of electrolytes will ensure you are on the right track. This can be in the form of an electrolyte packet or a sports drink that we discuss below!

Fluid

Electrolytes are great and all, but the main focus of your hydration as an athlete should be the water itself. Without water, electrolytes would have nothing to control, so it is important to make sure you are hydrating properly

Everyone’s hydration needs are different, but in sports drinks, there is a simple way to break it down. The amount of water in the sports drink matters! When we are looking at the differences in sports drinks, it usually comes down to the concentration of electrolytes and carbohydrates in water. 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are important to include in workouts that exceed an hour. This is because once the glucose (or sugar) in our blood begins to be used up as fuel, our bodies look for an extra push of energy, which a sports drink can give. The magic range of carbohydrates to fluids in a sports drink is 6-8%. Products like Gatorade and Gatorade Endurance have a 6% ratio of carbohydrates to fluid.

This percentage range is effective because there isn’t too much sugar that will upset your stomach and make you experience symptoms like discomfort or nausea. However, it is enough to give you a push of sugar through your bloodstream to keep your workout going. 

How Do Gatorade Products Rank?

As mentioned above, sports drink companies produce many different types of hydration products. Gatorade is one of them! In this blog, I share my Gatorade product ranking and break down the pros and cons of each so you can find the best product for you!

Thirst Quencher

This original Gatorade product has been on the market for ages. This is also the formula that frequently gets a bad reputation due to its sugar content. As we talked about above, there is a role for sugar during exercise that lasts longer than an hour at a higher intensity.

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation:

The Thirst Quencher Gatorade is the most widely known Gatorade product. It is accessible at almost every grocery store and it has all three components of a sports drink. 

The product is best used for carbohydrate replenishment during high to moderate-intensity exercise that lasts for longer than an hour. This is because the concentration of carbohydrates is equal to that golden 6% range, which will decrease the chance of stomach distress while also giving you energy. 

Personally, I would like to see it have a bit (around 100 mg) more sodium in it to replenish electrolytes, but this could be done by eating a salty snack after training. If this is your go-to, it’s a good option to keep you hydrated and energized during training. 

G2 Thirst Quencher

G2 is the lower sugar option of the Thirst Quencher. This product has 8g of carbohydrates instead of 34g in the Thirst Quencher. Other than this, the electrolyte contents are similar. 

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation:

Use this drink in lower-intensity workouts or those less than an hour. However, the sodium concentration is not high enough to replenish some athletes’ sweat losses. This can mean you may need to add a salty carbohydrate (pretzels, chips) after a workout to replenish all losses. 

I would also recommend being careful with this product before training sessions since some athletes may have GI sensitivities to the sucrose and sucralose (Splenda) that are used in this product.

G Zero

This product is identical to the Thirst Quencher, just without carbohydrates. I see athletes choose G Zero to avoid sugar in sports drinks. But there is a reason for the sugar! As we discussed above, the three components are fluid, electrolytes, and sugar, which means that this drink will be suitable for different times than intense training. 

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation:

If you are looking for a sports drink to consume before/after training, G-Zero isn’t the best choice. I would like to see more sodium content in the drink. Combining that with the lack of carbs, this drink is not suitable for an athlete who is training for hours in a day and sweating a lot. 

Gatorlyte

Gatorlyte is a newer product on the market. It is similar to the other products, but it is more hydration-focused. This formula has higher levels of electrolytes and lower carbohydrates. Though lower in carbohydrates, Gatorlyte does contain the amount needed to help increase the absorption of electrolytes.

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation:

This drink has what I think the Thirst Quencher is missing, extra sodium. This drink is great for hydration, but it would need an extra boost of carbohydrates when training for longer than an hour. Overall, this is one of my favorite great hydration options for athletes from Gatorade!

Gatorlyte Zero

Gatorlyte Zero is a similar product to Gatorlyte, except for half the sugar. The original Gatorlyte had lower concentrations of carbohydrates than regular Gatorade in the first place, so this is an even lower carbohydrate alternative. 

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation: 

This drink is valuable as a fluid and electrolyte replenishment. Gatorlyte Zero is similar to the original product, with 5g less carbohydrates. This provides minimal carbohydrates present and will not be an option for glycogen replenishment during training. 

G Fit

G Fit is a product that is marketed to fit the “clean, healthy” look without any coloring or artificial flavors. This drink is very similar to the lower sugar products, like G Zero. The formula is slightly higher in carbohydrates (1g instead of 0), and has a higher vitamin concentration. But other than that, the product is comparable to G Zero. 

My Sports Dietitian Recommendation:

G Fit is a drink with electrolytes and vitamins, but it is not a good choice for training longer than an hour without additional carbohydrate supplementation. It has added vitamins that you may be interested in having. Consuming this after a quick workout for electrolyte and fluid replenishment can be a good idea. 

This drink falls into the marketing of “clean aesthetic” as it is dye-free. Its contents are very similar to other Gatorade counterparts. This can boil down to personal preference, but you know what I think about carbohydrates in sports drinks!

PS – I have personally never tried it, so I am not sure how it tastes! 

Conclusion

As we looked through all these different products, you may understandably be overwhelmed when you are at a gas station looking at all the options every brand has. This blog hopefully brought some clarity on what to look for. Make sure to save the page so you can reference it often!

The most important components of a sports drink are fluid, electrolytes, and carbohydrates. The fluid restores water balance in the body, electrolytes help you retain water, and carbohydrates provide energy during training for longer than an hour. 

Every single athlete is unique and therefore, different sports drinks will be right for you. It is important your sports drink has what you need for your training session and will help you stay hydrated throughout the day.

Making a decision on what sports drink is right for you may take some experimentation with different types. Hydration, electrolytes, and other things are regularly discussed with my athletes in our 1:1 coaching programs. At RBSN we offer 1:1 initial consults to get you started on your journey or a monthly nutrition coaching program for those athletes who need more accountability.

If you are looking for guidance on hydration, I encourage you to sign up today. We currently have open enrollment, and I would love to help support you in getting to your goals! 

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1 thought on “Sports Dietitian Picks: What is the Best Gatorade Product?”

  1. Very good analysis … I am 76 year old very active guy and recently went to a hospital ER because I became very faint and seemed ready to pass out … once in the ER after testing my heart, taking X-rays and hydrating me with an IV I was fine.
    I never considered hydrating with anything but water until now – I now drink Gator Lyte and seem to feel better when I do . . . if I forget I will tend to get light – headed again. So I am convinced Gator Lyte does the trick … thanks for your article! Tod

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