Don’t Be Fooled: Gatorade is Garbage

So what’s the real truth about Gatorade?  It’s all over the place.  We’re supposed to drink it during our workouts, our runs, and even for hangovers.  The world’s top athletes are endorsing it and even Tiger Woods has his very own line of Gatorade (okay, that doesn’t mean much anymore).  It’s an amazing concoction of electrolytes that provides hydration and increased performance for all of our athletic pursuits.  It makes us run faster, longer, jump higher, lift more weights, and recovery more quickly.
Or does it?

Is Gatorade really healthy for us?  Is it the true miracle drink that it’s marketed as?  Will it really make us perform better and longer than our non-Gatorade drinking competition?

Instead of giving you the answer, I’ll just present my case and you can decide.

Gatorade was invented at the sports laboratories at the University of Florida in 1965 and tested on the football team, the Florida Gators (hence the name Gatorade).  The original concoction consisted of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice.  The football coach and his players hailed Gatorade as a savior to their hydration problems during hot summer workouts and the long, intense football season.

The Florida Gators went on to win the Orange Bowl in 1967 and gave credit to Gatorade as one of the reasons they won.  Thus began the national phenomenon and craze.  “I definitely don’t want to compete without Gatorade.  My competitor may be drinking it and I’ll be at a disadvantage” was the prevailing thought at the time.

I’m not a scientist, but I don’t doubt that this formula worked.  After all, Gatorade was made up of a couple of the most important electrolytes – sodium and potassium (others are calcium, magnesium, and chloride).  These help to replenish hydration levels after massive fluid loss during intense, prolonged exercise.

But, like everything else, someone along the way discovered that Gatorade could be produced less expensively by using artificial sweeteners and corn syrups.  Until this year, Gatorade’s top two ingredients were water and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the evil artificial sweetener that’s in everything these days from soda to bread.  In 2010, Gatorade changed its formula from HFCS to a sucrose-dextrose mix.  Same animal, different name.

So what exactly are we drinking when we pick up a bottle of the nectar?  Let’s look at Gatorade’s ingredients in comparison to the ingredients of Pepsi Cola.

Pepsi
Carbonated Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Caramel Color
Sugar
Phosphoric Acid
Caffeine
Citric Acid
Natural Flavors

Gatorade
Water
Sucrose Syrup
Glucose-Fructose Syrup
Citric Acid
Natural Flavors
Salt
Sodium Citrate
Monopotassium Phosphate

Turns out they’re strikingly similar, aren’t they?  True, Gatorade no longer has HFCS, but what do you think those other syrups are?  Yep, you guessed it.  They’re just manufactured corn syrups with different names, all made in the same factories with the same cheap corn used in HFCS.  And after reading the ingredient lists, does this still sound like something you want to suck down during a 10-mile run or an intense gym session?  Gatorade and soda aren’t too dissimilar when you really look at it.  Pump some carbonation into your bottle of Gatorade and it’s soda, isn’t it?

So why the hype?  Why does everyone think Gatorade is still the go-to beverage for increased athletic performance and hydration?

For the same reason we believe nearly everything else.  Marketing.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but Gatorade is manufactured by Quaker Oats, which is a division of Pepsi Co, who, along with Coca Cola, is one of the most successful marketing juggernauts of the past half century.  Their marketing campaign for Gatorade is genius.  It should be studied in every university marketing class across the country.  It’s strong, it’s omnipresent, it’s compelling, motivating – everything you want in a marketing message.

The new 2010 campaign, G-Series, outlines a 3-part strategy for performance.  Now, according to the marketing message, you’re supposed to drink Gatorade Prime before your workout, Gatorade Perform during your workout, and Gatorade Recover after your workout.  Are you kidding me?  It’s the same junk, just packaged and marketed differently?  You’re drinking non-carbonated soda.

So what’s this all mean?  I’m not telling you that you should never drink Gatorade, but next time you want to prepare yourself for a hard run or workout, think twice about what you’re putting into your body.  It’s nothing but non-carbonated soda with an impressive and frighteningly effective marketing campaign.

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4 Comments

Filed under Food, Nutrition, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Don’t Be Fooled: Gatorade is Garbage

  1. Pingback: What it takes to Run a 26.2 Mile Training Run…By Yourself « The Dynamic Life

  2. Pingback: Six Steps to Avoid Diabetes « The Dynamic Life

  3. Guest

    Well you may not be a scientist but I am and I specialize in nutrition and immune-mediated fatigue and from a practical stand point have been competing in endurance sports for over 20 years. I know a little something about sports drinks. This article is so full of errors I don’t know where to begin! For starters HFCS is not an artificial sweetner; no more ‘evil’ than table sugar (sucrose). Your comparison of Pepsi and Gatorade is meaningless without a listing of quantities of each ingredient. Pepsi and most non-diet soft drinks have much larger quantities of sugar then sports drinks do and are generally devoid of meaningful levels of electrolytes. The quantity of carbohydrates (‘sugar’) in sports drinks are all very similar to one another simply because that concentration of carbohydrate is absorbed most quickly and provides the fuel that working tissues prefer. To my knowledge, no one advocates consuming sport drinks ad libitum. They are designed to fill a nutritional niche for those who are active and should be consumed in this manner. As far as your ‘conspiracy’ goes, Pepsi Inc. is just the latest owner of the Gatorade brand which has passed through multiple ownerships over the years. Also, Gatorade markets its new G-series as it does simply because G1, G2 & G3 have three different nutritional compositions each tweaked to more precisely meet the needs of the body prior to, during and following exercise. Now we can agree on Pepsi Inc’s. cunning marketing but that’s just good buisness.

  4. Atheos23

    “Well you may not be a scientist but I am…”

    One that knows the difference between when to use then verses than or when to exclude meaningful punctuation. Do you kiss your research papers with that mouth?

    Please, enlighten us all, scientifically of course, what is the proper G tweak for my body. You know all the stats on me already, right? My height, weight, BMI, caloric intake, medical history, blood serum measures, etc. All those things that are crucial to determining first what should be in a nutritional drink compared to what is already in my body, and secondly, if it should be consumed in the convenient 12, 16, 24, 32, 64, or multiple volumes. You can do that right? Gatorade can because it’s scientific.

    It’s junk. The marketing is good that’s all.

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