Sports drinks are a popular beverage among athletes, sports teams, and gym-goers. They can be beneficial because they hydrate and replace electrolytes after intense exercise.
Sports drinks come in a variety of formulas for various needs. Most all of them include a combination of carbs and electrolytes, which help fuel and rehydrate our bodies. The amount of carbs and electrolytes needed in a sports drink will be dependent on your activity level. Knowing exactly what to look for is key to choosing one that will enhance your performance.
In this article, we’ll share the advantages sports drinks can offer, who should drink them, and what to look for when selecting one.
Best Sports Drink of 2022
Best Overall: Nooma Organic Sports Drink
Nooma’s lineup of organic drinks is ideal for someone who wants a beverage without artificial additives that can hydrate quickly. This beverage has no added sugars or chemicals and is made with real ingredients. It’s also available online with the ability to set up a delivery subscription, making it perfect for those with little time.
The drink contains organic coconut water which is naturally hydrating and rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are vital to our well-being because they support hydration and are easily lost through sweat when working out. Additionally, unprocessed Himalayan pink salt provides the necessary sodium needed to replace minerals lost through sweat.
While Nooma’s organic drinks don’t have sugar, organic leaf extract provides a touch of sweetness without all the calories. This makes its fun flavor options like chocolate mint and watermelon lime still taste great.
Best for Athletes: Gatorade Zero
For athletes looking for an ultra-hydrating beverage without added sugar, Gatorade Zero is a perfect choice.
A great source of electrolytes, Gatorade Zero is great for keeping you hydrated. It also replenishes those minerals frequently lost through sweat, like sodium and potassium. Since it doesn’t contain carbs, Gatorade Zero has minimal calories. This is ideal for anyone who wants a beverage that offers more hydration than water without unnecessary ingredients like sugar.
Offered in many of the classic Gatorade flavors like fruit punch, orange, and grape, consumers don’t have to sacrifice flavor. People can shop Gatorade Zero on Amazon, or in many national retailers and grocery stores like Target, Walmart, Kroger, and Safeway.
Best Tablet: Nuun Sport
Nuun Sport offers a convenient way for athletes to get necessary nutrition on the go. The handy tablet is dropped into a 16 oz. bottle of water where it quickly dissolves, creating a refreshing and nourishing sports beverage.
Each tablet contains 300mg of sodium, 150mg of potassium, and 25m magnesium, all of which are vital to normal muscle function and staying hydrated. And with just 15 calories, Nuun Sport is a great low-calorie option with optimum hydration levels. It also caters to various diets and is certified vegan, Kosher, non-GMO, and gluten-free.
Buyers can shop Nuun online where they can buy a tube of 10 tablets one time, or subscribe for regular deliveries.
Best for Exercise: Powerade Power Water
For hydration and energy, Powerade Power Water offers a unique, sugar-free blend of ingredients to fuel intense workouts. More than just a hydrating sports beverage, Power Water helps athletes who need an extra boost during exercise.
Instead of sugar, Power Water contains B vitamins which provide energy and focus to help keep endurance levels up, great for active individuals watching their carb intake. Its ION4 Advanced Electrolyte System replenishes the four key minerals lost through sweat, including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Powerade Power Water is offered in lemon, berry cherry, and tropical mango flavors in an easy-to-drink bottle with a flip cap. Find Powerade products in many national grocers like Fry’s, Albertsons, Bashas’, and Food City.
Best for Hydration: BodyArmor
BodyArmor is a premium sports beverage focusing on hydration through the use of real ingredients and flavors. While a more natural choice, it can still be easily found in convenience stores, groceries, and drug stores, like Circle K, CVS, and Safeway.
Most sports beverages contain a mix of potassium and sodium, common electrolytes lost through sweat. BodyArmor, however, places an emphasis on potassium, which helps to hydrate and prevent cramping.
Many people consume more than enough sodium through food, and too much can lead to high blood pressure. Since BodyArmor contains much lower levels of sodium than most sports drinks, it’s a great choice for anyone prone to high blood pressure.
BodyArmor is also ideal for someone who wants a natural beverage with the benefits of a sports drink. Made with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or dyes, BodyArmor instead uses natural fruit flavors to give it its taste and color.
Benefits of Sports Drinks
Research shows sports drinks can be beneficial to active people or athletes. It’s recommended that anyone participating in intense, prolonged activity lasting more than one hour should consume a drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes, which are the two main ingredients in sport drinks.
Sports drinks can also be useful for lower intensity workouts in very hot climates, like a long, easy hike, or slow jog in high heat. This is because intense heat can result in our bodies losing a lot of water through sweating.
Most people, though, do not exercise long enough or at high enough intensity levels to warrant sport drinks. For these individuals, sports drinks are just added sugar and calories with no real benefit. Instead, beverages like coconut water or regular water are sufficient for staying hydrated.
Maintaining proper hydration is essential for our bodies to function properly. During exercise, it’s even more important because dehydration greatly affects performance, endurance, power, and strength. Moreover, our bodies lose a lot of water through sweating and we can become dehydrated much quicker when working out.
Sports drinks help with hydration, and can even encourage additional consumption—the sugar in a sports beverage can create a sense of thirst, causing those drinking it to consume even more.
Electrolytes are minerals found throughout the body that have an electric charge. They help to balance your body’s pH and hydration levels, move nutrients into your cells, and ensure your body is working properly.
Many sports drinks contain electrolytes, usually sodium and potassium, in order to replace those lost during exercise. By quickly replacing electrolytes, our bodies are able to keep performing at their peak.
Energy During Workouts
Carbs are stored in our muscles and liver, which our bodies then use for fuel. Carbohydrates are a key component to keeping energy levels up and feeling energized. To ensure you have enough “fuel,” consuming carbs before and during exercise is ideal. For this reason, carbs are present in sports drinks, usually in the form of sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or glucose.
Some sports drinks even contain B vitamins, which support energy levels and help with endurance.
What to Look For in a Sports Drink
According to the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), carbs, sodium, and potassium are the key nutrients to look for in sports beverages. Likewise, flavor should also be taken into consideration.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are our body’s main source of energy and help maintain blood sugar. Look for a drink with somewhere between 12 and 24 grams carbs per 8 oz.
- Sodium: Sodium, which is lost through sweat, can stimulate thirst and help retain fluids in the body. Look for anywhere between 82 and 163 mg sodium per 8 oz. Keep in mind, the more you sweat, the higher amount of sodium you’ll need. On the ingredient label, sodium is often listed as sodium chloride or bicarbonate.
- Potassium: Like sodium, potassium is also lost through sweat and helps with maintaining muscle contractions. Scan the sports drink nutrition facts label to make sure potassium is present. It’s usually listed as monopotassium phosphate or l-lactate. Ideal amounts range from 18 to 46 mg per 8 oz. Aim for a higher amount if you think you’ll be sweating a lot.
- Flavor: Choosing sports drinks in a flavor you enjoy will encourage you to drink more and lead to better hydration.
CHAMP also notes that to maintain hydration, you should drink 3 to 8 oz. of a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes. While amounts can vary based on needs and activity levels, this is a general suggestion for exercise lasting more than 60 minutes.
How long does it take to rehydrate?
How long it takes for your body to rehydrate will depend on how dehydrated you are. Anyone suffering from severe dehydration may take up to 24 hours to rehydrate. Someone who is more moderately dehydrated typically takes around one hour to fully rehydrate after drinking fluids. The best way to avoid dehydration is to frequently drink water in short volumes throughout the day.
How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of dehydration can vary by age. In younger children and infants, common signs to look for include dry mouth and tongue, crying without tears, sunken eyes and cheeks, a sunken soft spot on top of skull, and irritability.
For adults, symptoms often include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.
Are sports drinks better than water?
Water is vital to wellbeing and always an excellent choice to quench your thirst. Sports drinks, on the other hand, are only beneficial in certain circumstances.
Any activity where you are losing an excess of sweat, like extreme physical workouts or endurance activities in high heat, warrant the use of sports drinks. This is because sports drinks replace lost electrolytes from sweat, and help prevent dehydration. However, even in these circumstances, water can and still should be consumed.
What foods have electrolytes?
Calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are all electrolytes, and commonly found in different fruits and vegetables. Beans, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, milk products, meat, and fish are all great food sources of electrolytes.
It’s important to note that while sodium is an important electrolyte, our bodies only need about one teaspoon daily. Consuming too much can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues. To reduce your sodium intake, avoid pre-packaged meals and use fresh herbs and spices to season food instead of table salt.
For foods that will keep you feeling energized and satisfied while you exercise, check out our list of the 10 best pre-workout snacks.
What is the best drink for athletes?
Water is always the best choice because it is the most hydrating. Sports drinks also help you stay hydrated but are only beneficial during and after a long, vigorous workout. Running or cycling long-distance, for example, is an activity where sports beverages can provide added benefits.
Most people, even active adults who regularly exercise, don’t need sports drinks. Water will provide all they need and is a much healthier choice than sports beverages.
Sports drinks can provide benefits in certain circumstances. They are best for endurance workouts lasting more than an hour, and extremely vigorous activities producing lots of sweat. The average active person, however, still benefits the most from drinking water to stay hydrated.
Even in select scenarios when athletes are losing high amounts of electrolytes, it’s still important to select the right sports drink. Choosing a formula with a balanced mix of carbs, potassium, and sodium, in relation to your activity level, is the key to an effective sports beverage.
Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix takes the top pick among sports drinks. One scoop contains 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates, necessary for optimal recovery and rehydration, along with 380 milligrams of sodium to help you replenish fluids lost during exercise.What is a healthier choice than Gatorade? ›
Coconut water is nature's Gatorade, as it is rich in electrolytes (especially magnesium and potassium). Coconut may be a good option for general hydration as well as camping trips, fitness events, and dehydration due to diarrhea.What is the best drink to drink while playing sports? ›
- Water: Good old H2O can be fine for those exercising at a low intensity, or for a short duration (less than 45 minutes). ...
- Sports drinks: A colourful combination of carbohydrates, electrolytes and water, sports drinks are ideal for fuelling muscles and rehydrating.
- SoBe Life Water.
If you're looking for a more natural alternative to Gatorade, one up-and-coming star is coconut water, with its notably high levels of potassium and is an electrolyte with out sugar added. Some coconut waters contain added sodium, so you can get both of the electrolytes you need.What hydrates better than Gatorade? ›
Pedialyte is an OTC rehydration drink for both children and adults. It's one of the most effective and safest treatments available for mild to moderate dehydration. Because it contains electrolytes, it's more effective than drinking only water if you've lost a lot of fluids.Is Gatorade zero good for you? ›
Gatorade Zero is a sugar-free, caffeine-free sports drink that helps to replenish electrolytes. However, it also has artificial sweeteners and artificial colors that may raise the risk of insulin resistance, hyperactivity in children, and other health issues. This makes its healthiness questionable.What do athletes drink for energy? ›
Short Answer: The best energy drinks for endurance athletes are Monster, C4 Energy, Guru, and REIZE. These drinks have just the right amount of caffeine to give you a boost of energy to get through whatever physical activity you're doing.Which drink is good for gym? ›
Water is truly the best choice for most types of day-to-day workouts. It will be absorbed quickly and provide the fluid needed to keep your blood pumping, and it will replace fluid losses from sweat during exercise. Aim for half your body weight in fluid ounces per day as a baseline fluid goal.Is BodyArmor healthier than Gatorade? ›
Is BodyArmor Better for You Than Gatorade? BodyArmor is likely a bit healthier than Gatorade and Powerade. BodyArmor includes coconut water and excludes artificial colors. Also, BodyArmor Lyte has natural zero-calorie sweeteners, rather than the artificial sweeteners in Gatorade Zero and Powerade Zero.
|#1||Vitamin Water Zero Squeezed, Lemonade Glaceau||1 bottle|
|#2||Thirst Quencher, Orange Gatorade||1 bottle|
|#3||Powerade, Mountain Berry Blast Xion 4||12 fl oz|
|#4||Low Calorie Sports Drink, Grape Gatorade||1 bottle|
The actual amount of added sugars in each drink are comparable, though Gatorade contains slightly more calories and sodium. Powerade boasts more micronutrients than Gatorade, with magnesium, niacin, and vitamins in each serving.Is vitamin water better than Gatorade? ›
When You Need an Energy Boost. One pro is that these two drinks may help boost energy and provide you with essential nutrients. Gatorade is a source of electrolytes, sodium and potassium, and Vitamin Water provides a more extensive list of vitamins and minerals. One flavor of vitamin water has caffeine.Is it OK to drink electrolytes everyday? ›
Consuming too much electrolytes can have negative effects. According to MedlinePlus, electrolytes are electrically charged minerals in your body, and they are found in various bodily fluids and tissues and play an important role in healthy function. However, consuming too much electrolytes can have negative effects.What are 4 signs of an electrolyte imbalance? ›
- Confusion and irritability.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
- Irregular or fast heart rate (arrhythmia).
- Muscle cramps, muscle spasms or weakness.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Numbness or tingling in limbs, fingers and toes.
Water is your best bet for everyday hydration, since it is free of sugar, calories, and caffeine. All of your daily food and beverages contribute to your daily fluid needs.Is Gatorade or Powerade better? ›
The actual amount of added sugars in each drink are comparable, though Gatorade contains slightly more calories and sodium. Powerade boasts more micronutrients than Gatorade, with magnesium, niacin, and vitamins in each serving.Is Gatorade a healthy drink? ›
But Gatorade contains high levels of sugar and food dyes, which may increase people's risk of certain health conditions, including weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Gatorade and other sports drinks are not inherently healthy or healthier than other beverages.Which is better for you Gatorade or Gatorade zero? ›
Is Gatorade Zero Better Than Regular Gatorade? Gatorade Zero has the same electrolytes as Gatorade, without the sugar or artificial colors. For this reason, some people consider Gatorade Zero healthier than regular Gatorade. However, Gatorade Zero has artificial sweeteners, which come with other possible risks.Is Gatorade better than vitamin water? ›
Gatorade has more sodium, which is why it is sometimes recommended for people who are watching their sodium intake. Vitaminwater does not have as much sodium, so people who are looking for a low-sodium beverage may prefer it.