You’ve just run 4 miles. Up hill. You’re exhausted and you’re thirsty. What’s better than chugging an ice-cold Gatorade to replenish!? Well, WATER is. (And my list of the healthiest sports drinks, of course, which we’ll get to in a moment.)

Why to Ditch the Gatorade (& Powerade, Etc.)

And here’s why:

  • Sugar Overload: Gatorade is basically refined SUGAR WATER!! If you drank the whole bottle below, you will have consumed 35 grams of sugar, or almost 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than your daily sugar needs as an adult (about 6 – 9 teaspoons of sugar per day)!! This can:
    • Hinder performance: The energy dips and fatigue after a sharp sugar spike are exactly opposite of the sports drink claims! And, this amount of sugar can delay gastric emptying, causing sloshing in the stomach, and can actually have a net dehydrating effect, because the stored body water will be pulled into the small intestine to dilute the sugar.
    • Rot your teeth (we all know this)
    • Cause fat storage: The body has to store that excess energy somewhere
  • Harmful Chemicals: From the artificial food dyes – which are especially toxic to children and their neurology – to the questionable “natural and artificial flavors” to the endocrine disrupting/GMO brominated vegetable oil, Gatorade is far from anything healthy.

So, what are the healthiest sports drinks to replenish electrolytes?

First, it’s very unlikely you’ll need such replenishment unless you’re doing strenuous activity over 2 hours (or you’ve got a stomach bug or you’re in labor :)).

In these instances, it’s definitely recommended to consume a healthy sports drink to rehydrate. Sodium is especially important in this mix, because it helps transport water through the walls of the small intestine, where 95% of fluid absorption takes place. It also helps to prevent hyponatremia, a serious condition caused by a lack of salt in the blood, which leads to water imbalance and build-up in the brain.

The Healthiest Sports Drinks

Check out these options for healthy rehydration!

  • Homemade healthy sports drink:
    • 16 oz. of water
    • Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon (contains calcium, magnesium, and potassium)
    • 1/4-1/8 teaspoon Himalayan, Celtic, or sea salt (for added minerals!!)
    • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (to aid in absorption of water)

For other DIY healthy sports drinks, check out Food Babe’s suggestions here.

  • Unsweetened coconut water (this has simple sugars and a ton of electrolytes, but may need a pinch of sea salt to boost sodium)
  • Kombucha or fermented pickle or sauerkraut juice (bonus: you’ll get probiotics for a healthier gut and immune system!)
  • An electrolyte replacement like this one with water
  • Bone broth! Homemade is best, and has calcium and magnesium for muscle relaxation, along with amino acids to refuel the muscles and joints.

Note: For improving endurance and performance and recovery, consuming 1 glass of beet juice or black coffee or low sugar (or diluted) tart cherry juice 1 hour before training or competition can help!

For more on hydration, check out my post here!