Gatorade. Powerade. Gatorade. Powerade. I’ve looked at both these words so much in the past two hours, they mean nothing to me. But to some, they mean everything. Everyone from professional athletes to once-a-month joggers has their brand preference between the two sports drinks. As a non-sports drink drinker, I’m trying to figure out what the big deal is, and if Powerade and Gatorade are actually that different from each other.
What is Gatorade?
People of a certain age may remember Gatorade’s famous ad campaign that explained their origins. The legend goes that in 1965, researchers at the University of Florida created the drink to help rehydrate the school’s football team as they struggled to play in the oppressive Florida heat. The initial concoction consisted of water, sugar, lemon juice, sodium, potassium, and phosphate and was called Gator-Aid because it was helping the Florida Gators play pigskin. Did it really help them? Well, in 1967, the Gators won the Orange Bowl, which was enough for the creators of the drink to resoundingly claim that it was thanks to them.
In 1969, Gatorade creators signed a commercial license to sell the drink nationally, which led to a lucrative deal for the University; to this day, they receive 20% of all Gatorade sales. The brand was eventually bought by The Quaker Oats Company, followed by their current owners PepsiCo. Throughout its existence, Gatorade has completely permeated professional sports and is the “official” drink of the NFL, NBA, MLB, WNBA, NHL, Nascar, and The Association of Volleyball Players, among many others. It’s also the official drink of “pouring a huge jug on the head coach.”
What is Powerade?
Gatorade created the sports drink industry and is truly the biggest game in town; they control 70% of the sports drink market. Their closest competitor, Powerade, has approximately 28.5% market share.
Powerade was created in 1988 by the Coca-Cola Company, ironically before their big competitor PepsiCo acquired Gatorade. Arguably, the only reason Powerade achieved even a modicum of success when compared to Gatorade is because they had a massive, multinational corporation behind their marketing. Thanks to Coca-Cola’s long-standing partnership with the Olympics, Powerade became the official drink of the games, which is the only place they’ve managed to one up their competitor.
What’s the difference between Gatorade and Powerade?
Both Gatorade and Powerade deal with the science of oral rehydration therapy, the process of replacing fluids and nutrients in your body that are expelled during sickness or over exertion. The nutrients in this case are the ever-famous buzzword electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate are just a few examples of the essential, naturally occurring electrolytes in our bodies. And, when we experience vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive sweating, those electrolytes are exiting our body at a rapid rate and need to be replaced. The typical IV you get in a hospital or the over the counter product Pedialyte is an electrolyte shotgun, designed to rehydrate you as quickly as possible.
Gatorade and Powerade have the same core ingredients: water, citric acid, salt, and some kind of sugar. In Gatorade’s case, that sugar is dextrose, which is basically the same as table sugar. Powerade uses high fructose corn syrup as their sweetener, which is a lot more powerful than basic sugar. So Powerade is usually sweeter than Gatorade.
Comparing 12-oz bottles of Gatorade and Powerade: They both have 80 calories and 21g of carbs/sugars. However, the Powerade label also says it has another 21g of “added sugar,” which accounts for 41% of recommended daily value. This also accounts for the sweeter taste.
Now to the electrolytes. Gatorade has 160 mg of sodium and 45 mg of potassium, compared to Powerade’s 150 mg sodium and 35 mg potassium. Based on these numbers alone, Gatorade is slightly better at replenishing your electrolytes. However, Powerade has some other bonus nutrients like niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, and magnesium.
So, really, the difference between Gatorade and Powerade is so slight, it really comes down to preference in the end. Although, Gatorade definitely has an edge over Powerade when it comes to sheer number of blue-hued flavors. There are seven blue Gatorade flavors and just two blue Powerade flavors. So, I think we know who takes the title.