How Sports Drinks Compare
With the numerous sports drinks available on the market it can be difficult to determine which is best for you. Ultimately, the easiest way to find your favorite drinks is by testing each during exercise, but the guide shown below is a handy explanation of the differences (as well as the advantages and disadvantages) of some of the many products available.
Gatorade is the original electrolyte drink that was developed specifically for the rehydration of athletes. It is arguably the most popular brand, and is available in a myriad of flavors and formulations. Gatorade also provides carbohydrates which are necessary during long and hard efforts. Besides being available as a bottled drink, it can also be purchased in powder form, allowing users to create their own concentrations and flavors. The advantage is that Gatorade is convenient and there is a flavor available for every palate. However, Gatorade has been criticized for its high sugar content, as well as the effect of this drink on teeth (a study published in The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice found that Gatorade can be more detrimental to tooth enamel than Coca-Cola.) The key to healthy Gatorade consumption is to use it for its intended purpose (for replacing electrolytes and providing energy) as opposed to drinking it after light exercise where electrolyte replenishment may not be necessary.
Perhaps the biggest competitor to Gatorade, Powerade has a similar carbohydrate and electrolyte profile to the popular sports drinks. They both contain the same amount of carbohydrates; however, the type of sugars they contain varies. Gatorade is comprised of sucrose and dextrose, while Powerade’s main carbohydrate source is high fructose corn syrup. Some people may choose to avoid Powerade for this reason. Additionally, the electrolyte profiles are slightly different, with Powerade containing 10 mg less sodium, and 10 mg less potassium. An advantage of Powerade is that it contains a better vitamin profile than Gatorade with additional B-3. B-6, and B-12 supplementation.
Nuun is a relatively new sports drink brand that markets easy-to-dissolve tablets that are pre-formulated to be dropped into 16-ounce water bottles. The electrolyte profile of Nuun is superior to that of Gatorade and Powerade, as it contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. There is also a wider range of products, including Nuun Active (meant for replenishing electrolytes after vigorous activity), Plus for Nuun (containing electrolytes and carbohydrates), Nuun Energy (essentially Nuun Active with added caffeine), and Nuun All Day (hydration for non-active periods of the day). Nuun also has a wide range of flavors in traditional flavors such as lemon + lime and grape, as well as unique offerings like watermelon. However, the new formulation of Nuun contains Stevia Leaf Extract, which has angered some of its customer base.
A niche brand in the market, EXOS is a powdered drink mix that replenishes electrolytes lost due to sweat. In comparison to the other brands already mentioned, EXOS provides the most electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals, and the ingredient list contains the following: Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Chromium, Chloride, Sodium, Potassium, and D-Ribose. The price of this product may be prohibitive, as it is $35 for 30 servings, and it contains Stevia Leaf Extract as well, which does not make this item a good alternative for people avoiding Nuun due to this sweetener.
Tailwind was designed for ultra endurance athletes seeking a product that was different from the traditional options already available. This product is unique because it is intended to provide all the calories, electrolytes, and hydration needs that are necessary during all day or multi day events. For athletes who have found traditional electrolyte replenishing drinks or carbohydrate sources to cause an upset stomach, Tailwind is specifically formulated in order to avoid that problem. The carbohydrate sources in this powder are sucrose and glucose, which are easily digestible. No artificial sweeteners, dyes, or flavors are used, which is beneficial for people with food sensitivities. The price of Tailwind is also among the more reasonable options on this list, at $35 for 50 servings.
Skratch Labs products were originally designed by cyclists looking for a natural solution for hydration and nutrition, due to the abundance of products on the market that contained artificial ingredients. The hydration products from Skratch Labs contain less sugar, more sodium, and are flavored with real fruit instead of “natural flavors.” The result is a simple product with few ingredients. One serving of Skratch contains twice the amount of sodium as Gatorade and the only ingredients are cane sugar, dextrose, sodium citrate, citric acid, magnesium, calcium, potassium, Vitamin C, and fruit juice. This product is an ideal solution for anyone who is looking for a simple electrolyte replacement drink without any additional ingredients.
Let us know what your favorite sports drinks are. Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.