This post is written by our Registered Dietician/Sports Nutritionist, Sarah Cook. Sarah has worked with some of the top young athletes in the world and elite professional athletes, as a nutrition intern at the famous IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Sarah services Performance Unlimited with nutrition consultation for our youth and adult clientele.
GATORADE vs G2 for Athletes: are they my best option???
Many athletes, parents and coaches may find themselves asking “Why do I need Gatorade?, and “Do I need all that sugar?” or may be wondering “What’s the difference between G2 and regular Gatorade?”. All are legitimate questions and reading a Gatorade label can often be confusing.
First off, Gatorade was designed for three main purposes, to hydrate/re-hydrate athletes, to replenish electrolytes lost via sweat (muscle cramp, anyone?) and to provide fast digesting carbohydrates to fuel the athletes.
The cells of our body and muscles need electrolytes (for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on sodium and potassium, although there are more electrolytes in the body) to perform daily functions including muscle contraction and relaxation. When we workout, have a practice or a game we lose these electrolytes and water through our sweat at much higher rates than say, if we are at home being a couch potato. This is why sometimes our lips taste salty after a training session or we notice white spots on our clothing, hats, or sweat bands (i.e. salt rings). When it comes to rehydrating, water will provide fluid replenishment from losses in sweat, but does not contain any electrolytes. Again, electrolytes are required for proper muscle contraction and relaxation. Therefore, if we only drink water to rehydrate, we are not replacing valuable electrolytes we have lost. There is also the possibility that we can over hydrate ourselves and dilute our body’s electrolyte content (more about this concept to come at a later post on HYDRATION). This is not to say that you shouldn’t drink water during training or games. You should! But if you are competing for long duration and are a heavy sweater, the need to replace electrolytes lost is crucial. Both Gatorade and G2 contain equal amounts of sodium and potassium, which are the main electrolytes that our body needs. If we do not rehydrate properly with fluids and electrolytes we can experience dizziness, headaches, upset stomach and most notably, muscle cramps.
Our bodies turn carbohydrates (fiber and sugar) found in food and break down to be used for fuel. Fiber is often found in whole foods and referred to as a “slow digesting” carbohydrate because it takes longer for our body to break down, thus giving us levels of long sustained energy. Sugar is known as a “fast digesting” carbohydrate; our bodies can break it down quickly and use it for immediate, short term bouts of energy. The sugar in Gatorade and G2 not only fuels our muscles during competition but also is the main fuel source for our brain, allowing athletes to perform for longer durations, remain focused and execute high level decision making while on the field.
Which do I need and when?
As we decipher from reading the label, Gatorade has roughly 3X times the amount of sugar than the G2 does. Therefore, Gatorade would be recommended for an athlete whose sport is of high intensity lasting 60-90 minutes. A great example of when Gatorade would be the proper fueling drink would be…you guessed it! A soccer match or a long/high intensity training session lasting more than 60 minutes.
G2 is recommended for an athlete whose sport is of lower intensity or lasting less than 60 minutes. A few examples might include baseball and softball or even golf, but this could also apply to a low intensity strength session, walk through before a big game, or a recovery training session.
Another important factor is when to consume Gatorade and G2. It is designed to be used directly before and during competition, which is when our bodies will be able to utilize the sugars and electrolytes the most. It is not intended to be a beverage that we drink with meals or right before going to bed. This is where we can get in trouble and where we don’t need the extra sugar. If we are eating a balanced diet we will be getting sodium and potassium from our foods to help rehydrate us and fiber to give us energy. So water, milk, green teas are the preferred fluids of choice to have with meals to give our bodies the fluid we need to hydrate. Consuming sports drinks with meals can provide our bodies with too much sugar, if we have excess and our glycogen stores (our bodies’ storage form of sugar) are full, the sugar can be stored as fat, which can negatively affect our body composition and performance.
Here’s how it breaks down for a quick review→
|Fluid||Sugar g*||Potassium mg*||Sodium mg*||When to drink?|
|Gatorade||14 g||30 mg||110 mg||Activity lasting 60-90 minutes|
|G2||5 g||30 mg||110 mg||Activity < 60 minutes, or of low intensity|