Does Gatorade Have Caffeine? Are Sports Drinks Good or Bad for You?

4 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
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Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

If you’ve ever drunk Gatorade later in the day, you may have wondered, “Is there caffeine in Gatorade?” and “Will it keep me awake?”

Gatorade is one of the best-known sports drinks today. But it’s not a new brand. It was initially developed in 1965 at the University of Florida to boost the performance of the university football team, the Gators. Two years later, the Gators won the Orange Bowl.

So, how much caffeine does Gatorade have, and does that make it effective as a sports drink?

In this post, we explain what exactly Gatorade contains, how much you can drink safely, and how to best keep yourself hydrated during running.

Should You Drink Gatorade or Water After Sports?

Gatorade contains water as well as electrolytes, which you lose through sweat when you exercise. In theory, at least, Gatorade can provide more nourishment than water.

But we’ll see later how long you train matters. So the answer is not clear-cut. Gatorade is not necessarily a better drink than water after sports.

Several studies find Gatorade effective as a sports drink, with most research based on the performance of serious athletes. However, many of these studies have been funded by the industry, including the Gatorade brand itself.

According to this research paper, industry-funded research studies were more likely to find favorable results than studies not backed by the sports drink industry.

Does Gatorade Have Caffeine?

Currently, Gatorade does not contain caffeine. But a drink “fueled” by Gatorade, the BOLT24 Energize + Caffeine, does.

Caffeine is a stimulant that may boost athletic performance. However, because of concerns that excessive consumption of caffeine can cause cardiac arrhythmia, it’s not usually included in sports drinks.

The Gatorade caffeine content may be zero, but what drinks have the most caffeine? According to data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, energy drinks have the most caffeine, with 2.5oz of Redline Max 300 7-Hour Energy Boost and 12oz of Redline Cognitive Candy having 300mg of caffeine.

Coffee is the next biggest source of caffeine, with as much as 410mg of caffeine for the 20oz. venti Starbucks Coffee, Pike Place Roast.

Of all teas, yerba mate is the richest source, having as much as 150mg of caffeine per 16oz.

Soft drinks like Pepsi, Mountain Dew, or Coca-Cola all have caffeine. Whether regular, diet, or zero sugar, they pack up to 69mg of caffeine per 12oz.

Caffeinated water can also be a significant source of caffeine, packing up to 100mg per 8–16oz.

What Does Gatorade Contain?

If Gatorade doesn’t have caffeine, what does it have? Gatorade offers 14 grams of carbohydrates per serving compared to 25 grams in orange juice and 27 grams in Coca-Cola. Gatorade also has water, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, and flavoring and coloring agents.

Water and some minerals aside, sugar in the form of sucrose and dextrose make up most of Gatorade. That can be a problem, especially considering that in the last three decades, the intake of sugary drinks has increased with the greater availability of sports drinks.

Does Gatorade have electrolytes?

Gatorade has sodium and potassium, two key electrolytes that help regulate the body’s fluid balance. When you run or exercise, you sweat out electrolytes. A 12fl oz serving of Gatorade Thirst Quencher has 160mg of sodium and 50mg of potassium.

Does Gatorade have benzene?

No. Benzene is a chemical with a sweet odor that increases the risk for certain cancers. It’s thought to form as a reaction between vitamin C and the preservative benzoate. Gatorade contains neither of these.

Risks of Drinking Too Much Gatorade

Gatorade was formulated as a sports drink for intense physical activity. Its sugar content, while lower than that of other sports drinks, can add up.

The increase in sugary drink consumption among children may contribute to weight gain in adulthood and increase the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It may increase weight when consumed regularly.

What about Gatorade Zero? Is it OK to drink Gatorade Zero every day? Gatorade Zero is sugar-free. However, it uses artificial sweeteners and artificial colors.

It has the zero-calorie sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame K. In some studies, these sweeteners have been associated with migraines, insulin resistance, and gut microbiome disturbances.

Whether sweetened or unsweetened, Gatorade uses different color dyes, including Blue 1, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. These artificial dyes have been linked with DNA damage, carcinogenic contaminants, and the formation of tumors.

Will Gatorade Keep You Awake?

As we’ve seen, Gatorade doesn’t have caffeine. Unlike energy drinks, it doesn’t act as a stimulant. Drinking Gatorade in the evening is not likely to keep you awake.

However, because it contains plenty of sugar, it will boost your energy levels. This may make you feel alert, but the effect should not last long.

Is Gatorade Good for Your Body?

Drinking Gatorade during or after running or exercising for an extended period can help your body replenish lost electrolytes, rehydrate you, and refuel you with carbs.

If you’re wondering why Gatorade is bad for you or why Gatorade is banned in Europe (in some countries at least), it’s mostly because of artificial coloring agents. Gatorade, like any sports drink, is also bad for you if you simply drink too much of it.

The bottom line is that Gatorade isn’t water with perks. It’s not a substitute for water. While popular, it’s not necessarily the best hydration drink for runners.

Does Gatorade Actually Hydrate?

Gatorade contains both water and electrolytes, key nutrients the body loses during exercise. Some research shows that sports drinks like Gatorade may hydrate better than water athletes who exercise for more than 60 minutes in hot conditions.

However, for non-athletes or people exercising for less than 60 minutes, there’s no evidence that Gatorade hydrates better than water or other sports drinks.

What’s more, the extra dose of sugar and sodium can contribute to tooth decay, weight gain, and high blood pressure.

How to Keep Yourself Hydrated During Running

Keeping yourself hydrated during long runs is crucial to performing at your best, avoiding cramps, and recovering fast. But you want to choose your drink with care.

The best hydrating drinks for runners aren’t necessarily sports drinks or those with the most marketing behind them.

The best electrolyte drink is sugar-free. It doesn’t load you with artificial sweeteners and flavorings.

Look for a drink without sweeteners that brings together a balanced mix of electrolytes, including magnesium for muscle recovery and calcium for bone support.

Joggo combines six electrolytes with key vitamins like vitamin C, D, and E. Available as a powder, you can mix a scoop with 8–16oz of water for a delicious and refreshing drink. You can carry it in your water bottle or enjoy it after your run.Learn more about Joggo Hydration & Recovery and how it can help you become the best runner you can be.

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