What Does Gatorade Do for Athletes?

Young man resting on a run

Drinking fluids is a vital part of healthy exercise and sports performance. Water is essential for the human body, since it protects your organs and regulates body temperature. Athletes have options when it comes to replenishing the liquids they use up during their physical activities. Gatorade, a popular sports drink, can provide some of the things athletes need to keep moving.

It's Hydrating

It's important for athletes to keep their bodies properly hydrated. Dehydration can cause loss of coordination and muscle fatigue, which can hurt your performance, notes the American Council on Exercise. You should drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before your physical activities, then 8 ounces of fluids during your warmup and 7 to 10 ounces during your activity every 10 to 20 minutes. After you're finished, you'll need to drink 8 ounces more. Water is one of the most recommended fluids, but some people dislike the bland taste. A sports drink, such as Gatorade, can be more appealing to the taste buds and encourage you to take in more fluids.

Energy Boost

Gatorade and other sports drinks contain a carbohydrate formula that can help provide athletes with extra energy. Carbohydrates are a dietary component whose main function is to give your body energy, especially for the nervous system and brain, notes Medline Plus. Too many carbohydrates, however, can increase your calories and cause weight gain. You can fuel your body before a long workout with a combination of carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This could include a turkey sandwich with a side of fruit, oatmeal mixed with fruit, milk and nuts or toasted whole wheat bread and peanut butter. Fueling yourself during your sporting event or workout with Gatorade or another sports drink containing carbohydrates can help you maintain the energy you need and keep you from tiring as easily.

Role of Electrolytes

Electrolytes are another big reason for drinking Gatorade or other sports drinks during a strenuous athletic event or workout, since they are able to regulate where fluids are distributed within your body. When you sweat, you lose potassium and sodium, which are both electrolytes. Sports drinks such as Gatorade can rehydrate your body quickly and replenish those electrolytes, notes Vanderbilt University.

Dangers of Sports Drinks

While sports drinks can be helpful for athletes who need to stay hydrated and energized, you should use caution when giving your children Gatorade or other sports drinks, unless they're participating in strenuous physical activities. These drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can cause dental problems, provide excess calories and can put kids at risk for obesity, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, it's likely OK to give your kids Gatorade while they're taking part in an athletic activity or sporting event, but unnecessary in other situations.

Alternatives to Sports Drinks

If you're looking for an alternative to sugary sports drinks during your exercise routine, you could always reach for water or other unsweetened beverages. Water is the best source of fluid replenishment for most people, says the American Council on Exercise. Add flavor to your plain water by tossing in a piece of watermelon or slice or lemon or lime, suggests the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.