My typical article discusses a product in which salt is an ingredient that is not talked much about. If the food industry could produce cheeses that contained no salt, but still tasted great, there would be no salt in cheese. Gatorade is a very different product. It’s supposed to contain salt.
What is Gatorade?
The sodium content in Gatorade is a testament to the important role that this mineral plays in the normal functioning of the human body. Sodium chloride is resoponsible for conducting tiny electric signals that literally make tick. When we do hard work or exercise salt is excreted from our bodies with sweat. Generally, we have no problem replacing this sodium, because a typical person consumes much more salt than is needed on a daily basis. Things are different for athletes. They need to hydrate as quickly as possible and they also need to restore electrolytes as quickly as possible (in theory, at least), because the game is not over yet. Sports drinks, most notably Gatorade, are specifically formulated to contain sodium that can be consumed by athletes during the process of hydration.
The history of Gatorade
Feel free to skip this section, but there are some fun facts contained here. Gatorade was created in 1965 by a team of scientists at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Ray Graves, the coach of Florida Gators had requested the scientists' help in creating a drink that would help his team replenish important fluids during the game.
On January 2, 1967, the Florida Gators won their first Orange Bowl title over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Did the magical sports drink play a role in this victory? It depends who you ask. The Gators' quaterback, Steve Spurrier essentially said that he could neither confirm nor deny the effect of Gatorade on his team mates. However, Bobby Dodd, the Georgia Tech coach, noted about his team’s loss: “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.” It may be the a typical behavior of a losing side trying to find excuses. But the reputation of the sports drink was made. The original concoction of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice evolved into a multi-flavor drink that you can find in any food store in America and dozens of other countries. After a series of purchases, the brand is currently controled by Pepsico. Not surprising, Coca-Cola holds rights the Gatorade’s main competitor, Powerade.
Salt content in Gatorade
So, we know that salt is an important ingredient of Gatorade. But how much of it? Today’s Gatorade contains 160mg of sodium per 12 ounces. This is actually a lot more salt compared to the original formulation of the drink that was developed by University of Florida scientists (about 5mg per a 20 ounce serving). A small can of Gatorade would contain 10% of recommended daily amount of sodium. However, when we think Gatorade we think about people gulping down huge bottles of the salty stuff. This may be ok for an athlete who is indeed losing a lot of salt through perspiration, while otherwise maintaining a very healthy diet and hydrating well with water the rest of the day. If you are not an athlete and only exercise for up to 60 minutes a day, you should not be drinking Gatorade on a daily basis. Bby the way, it’s also pretty sugary and sugar-free versions come with a host of other sweeterner related issues.
Final advice: do you need to drink Gatoradde to replenish electrolytes?
There is one simple way to know whether you should be drinking Gatorade or not in order . Are you sweating profusely while working out? If the answer is no, stay away from Gatorade (Powerade or what have you). You most likely already eat enough salty stuff to keep your minerals in balance. Choose water instead. When you see football and basketball stars advertising sports drinks always consider whether you are football or basketball star yourself before rushing out to buy some Gatorade.