Fuel Up: Pick-Me-Ups Gulps

Find out which sports drinks have the ingredients you need to succeed in your favorite activities.

You know that drinking enough fluids during prolonged exercise or vigorous outdoor activities is important. If you get hot and sweaty, your body loses important nutrients. But which fluids are best for you and your boys?

Sports drinks can replace the water and electrolytes lost through perspiration, but most of them also contain high amounts of sodium and sugar, as well as other artificial ingredients. So save them for high-intensity workouts of more than 60 minutes. And before you gulp, check the ingredients.

Here are some good choices:

(Brands include Zico, Vita Coco, and O.N.E.)
Calories (per 11 ounces): 60
Sodium: 60 milligrams
Potassium: 670 milligrams
Sugar: 14 grams
Protein: 1 gram

Gaining popularity as “nature’s sports drink” because of its natural electrolyte balance (and no artificial ingredients). This is the clear juice from young, green coconuts (not the creamier coconut milk pressed from the white flesh of older coconuts). It contains more potassium than a banana, as well as magnesium, sodium, calcium, and a little protein—but no fat. Refreshing and slightly sweet, with mild coconut flavor. Note: Calories vary by flavor.


Gatorade Lemon-Lime
Calories (per 8 ounces): 50
Sodium: 110 milligrams
Potassium: 30 milligrams
Sugar: 14 grams

The granddaddy of them all, invented to hydrate college athletes who perspire heavily. Has the highest level of sodium and potassium for maximum hydration under extreme conditions. Also contains artificial colors and high-fructose corn syrup. Lemon-lime flavor is tangy, with a slight aftertaste.


Calories: 6 per tab
Sodium: 180 milligrams
Potassium: 50 milligrams
Sugar: 0 grams

Electrolyte replacement from a tube (pronounced “noon”). Drop a couple of tablets in a Nalgene and go. Contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, with a little riboflavin (vitamin B2) and beet juice, depending on flavor. Tastes mildly of lemon-lime, tri-berry, orange ginger, or citrus fruit. Portable hydration for strenuous activities.


Powerade ION4 Lemon-lime
Calories (per 8 ounces): 50
Sodium: 100 milligrams
Potassium: 25 milligrams
Sugar: 14 grams

ION4, the newest version of Powerade, contains a little magnesium, plus the usual electrolytes (sodium, potassium), as well as high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. Like Gatorade, it’s best only during long, strenuous events. Lemon-lime flavor is heavy on the lemon, with a coat-the-tongue aftertaste.


Sobe Lifewater Orange-Tangerine
Calories (per 8 ounces): 40
Sodium: 20 milligrams
Potassium: 20 milligrams
Sugar: 10 grams

This “vitamin-enhanced water beverage” avoids artificial ingredients and high-fructose corn syrup and adds more B vitamins and vitamin C. Lower in sodium and sugar than traditional sports drinks and slightly lower in potassium. It’s best after a moderate workout—or drink it and eat a banana to boost your potassium intake. Lightly fruity, with a sweet, clean aftertaste.




Sports drinks debuted in 1967 with Gatorade, invented to hydrate college athletes training under the scorching Florida sun. Now, thanks to intense marketing, people often drink them like soft drinks, which many critics say they resemble thanks to high levels of sugar and artificial colors and flavors.

Sometimes, though, water just isn’t enough.

Exercising or engaging in strenuous outdoor activities under hot or cold conditions, at high altitudes, or for long periods of time, can cause the body to lose electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) and glycogen (carbohydrates), which it needs to function properly.

Sports drinks, with their sugar and salt, help the body absorb water faster and provide energy for muscles.

You can also run the risk of drinking too much plain water, a condition called hyponatremia that the Mayo Clinic and others say happens more often with endurance athletes such as marathoners and triathletes. It causes blood volume to rise and sodium levels to drop.

To avoid either dehydration or over-hydration, follow these guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine:

Weigh yourself before and after working out. This can help you know if you’re drinking too much or too little. If after exercising you’ve lost more than 2 percent of your body weight, it could be because of a drop in blood volume from not drinking enough. You’ll need to drink fluids to replace what you’ve lost.

A weight gain of more than 2 percent can mean you’re drinking too much.

Hydrate before, during, and after exercise. Drink fluids before your activities to get your body prepared, then drink every 15 minutes or so while you’re exercising. Afterward, replace any fluid losses if you’ve lost weight. To replenish your energy stores, eat some carbohydrates and a small amount of protein within two hours of exercising.

Know the symptoms of dehydration. Muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of coordination signal that you need to drink more.

Know the symptoms of hyponatremia and over-hydration. Although rare, the symptoms of too much water consumption can include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Immediately seek medical help.

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