Powerade vs Gatorade
P.S. For those who want to cheat and don’t want to read the whole article. Click here to see who I believe is the winner in this.
Setting some context
Energy drinks is a huge and high growth market – but with so many options out there, we need to learn to cut through the marketing and understand the key differences between the biggest and most popular products on the market. For this comparison, we are going to look at the two biggest powerhouses – Powerade and Gatorade.
However, before we do this, I think it is important to understand why energy drinks are important, and what the main things we should be looking for are.
Ultimately, the reason we want to use energy drinks and utilise the advertised benefits is to increase sports performance. There are many facets to sports performance, but there are two that I want to highlight for the purpose of this post:
Endurance is in its simplest form, your ability perform an exercise or activity before you can do no longer. In sports, this could be the length of time that you can run for, the duration that you can run at a sprint pace or number of sprints you can do over a set period of time. Improving your stamina and being able to control your heart rate and keep it at a manageable level during an activity allows greater focus and effort to go into the skill side of a sport (be it say rowing, cycling, running or soccer).
In longer activities, the body needs quickly digestible carbohydrates in order to have the energy to sustain performance, and taking this through a drink is the easiest way to do this and a lot more pleasant that trying to eat a rice cake mid exercise!
It should almost go without saying that hydration is key, but it is something that is often overlooked and underestimated when looking into factors that can influence performance. The side effects of poor hydration can include cramping in muscles, decreased strength and a negative effect on endurance.
Energy Drinks vs Gels
This review of academic studies from My Sports Science gives a pretty conclusive view of the benefits of energy drinks, showing that they are just as effective as energy gels at deliverying carbohydrates to the body. I think this is useful to see as the cost effectiveness of energy drinks (especially in their readymade form) is far superior.
Energy Drink Forms
There are two main forms that energy drinks are sold in, with the main difference being the cost effectiveness and ability to dictate quantities.
- Powder – a lot of the major brands offer their energy drinks in the form of a powder. This has its own benefits – you can make the drink in a drinks bottle of your choice, you can make a drink as strong as you like, it is cost effective (cheaper per liter) and you can take more with you on-the-go without the weight of it being ready made up.
- Readymade – this is where the drinks for this comparison are most well known (even through they offer powder forms). These drinks come pre packaged – this makes it easy to know exactly what you are consuming from a calorie/ macronutrient point of view.
Now, on to the two products we are looking at – Powerade and Gatorade.
Powerade is the sports drink product of The Coca-Cola Company. It was first introduced in 1988 when it was also announced as a sponsor of The Olympic Games in the same year, which in itself demonstrates the financial power and reputation that sits behind its parent company.
As an energy drink, Powerade is one of the first brands that will come into most people’s minds (and probably why you are reading this article). Lets look at a few of the key things we should highlight about Powerade:
- The base ingredient of Powerade that gives it its carbohydrate content is high fructose corn syrup. Objectively, there are views of there being health risks coming with consuming this.
- Electrolyte wise, powerade contains 160mg sodium and 45mg potassium. This mix is important to look at as the increased consumption of potassium when sodium is increased has been proven to be vital.
Powerade – readymade
This is the form that you will see on the shelves, and is incredibly more economic and cost effective when bought in mass. For those looking to keep calories low – Powerade also have a low sugar variety, Powerade Zero.
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Powerade – powder
I am a huge fan of powdered energy drinks. This gives great flexibility in how strong you want a drink to be. When I cycle I take two bottles and usually make a very strong one and a weaker one, turning to the stronger one when I need my intermittent energy hits.
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Gatorade was formed in a totally different way to Powerade. Rather than being the idea of the world’s largest soft drink brand, Gatorade was first created by a group of scientists at the University of Florida in 1965. Since this, Gatorade has gone from strength to strength and is now synonymous with both the Super Bowl & Motor Racing.
The different in approach of its creation is also evident in the key ingredients of Gatorade:
- The base carbohydrate for Gatorade is a mix of sucrose and dextrose. These are much more easily and quickly converted into usable energy by the body than corn syrup.
- Electrolytes wise, Gatorade typically consists of 150mg of sodium and 35mg of potassium.
Gatorade – readymade
Similar to powerade, you will have likely seen Gatorade and its 29 flavours filling the shelves and fridges of convenience stores across the country. They have also recently launched G2 which is a readymade forumula with greater quantities of sodium and potassium, aimed at those drinking for sports and not just for enjoyment!
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Gatorade – powder
Those who have grown up playing team sports are probably most familiar with powdered Gatorade as this is what is used to create the big buckets of Gatorade at high school football and soccer games. These are the same buckets that are thrown over the winning coach at the SuperBowl each year.
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If you’ve made it this far – thanks for reading. To be honest, there hasn’t been a huge amount I could really say about either product but I do think there there is a clear winner in the choice between Powerade and Gatorade.
For me – I would pick Gatorade every single time. The core ingredients are much better known in the sports nutrition community, and its background is also exactly the same nature – grounded in sports science, whereas Powerade was purely created as a marketing decision from The Coca-Cola Company in advance of The Olympic Games.