Gatorade recently launched a new sports hydration drink called Gatorlyte which the brand is positioning as a healthier alternative to the original Gatorade formulation. Gatorlyte is described on Gatorade's website as a "specialized blend of five electrolytes to deliver rapid rehydration" that has "lower sugar and no artificial sweeteners or flavors."
But is Gatorlyte actually healthier than Gatorade or are these just marketing claims? Does Gatorlyte contain any unhealthy ingredients? Do regular people even need sports hydration beverages? And how does Gatorlyte compare to the popular hydration brand Pedialyte?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze every ingredient in Gatorlyte to give our take on whether it's healthy or not, share our thoughts on whether Gatorlyte or Gatorade is healthier, document if hydration drinks are even necessary for the average consumer and compare Gatorlyte to Pedialyte.
Is Gatorlyte Unhealthy? An Ingredient Analysis
Gatorlyte has several different flavors, all with similar formulations. We’re using the Gatorlyte Mixed Berry product as a basis for our ingredient review, and the Nutrition Facts label above is from this product.
Sugar is the first ingredient, and a 2019 medical review found that added sugar is harmful in excess and is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Citric acid is typically manufactured from a fungus called Aspergillus niger and appears to cause whole-body inflammation in a small subset of individuals according to a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal.
This Gatorlyte flavor contains the artificial food dye Red 40. A medical review on the toxicology of food dyes concluded that Red 40 was contaminated with carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds).
Natural flavor is a generic descriptor used by food manufacturers which doesn’t define what actual chemical compounds are used. As we explained in our Athletic Greens reviews article (on another health brand that uses natural flavors), there are documented toxicity concerns regarding some natural flavoring agents and their metabolites.
Purified stevia leaf extract is a healthy and natural sweetener that's plant-derived and has been shown in a meta-study to have no effect on blood sugar levels, which makes it a healthier option than added sugar or artificial sweeteners in our opinion.
Gatorlyte also contains an electrolyte blend including ingredients like potassium chloride and magnesium oxide. A review published in the Nutrients journal found that supplemental electrolytes can improve athletic performance.
Overall we do believe Gatorlyte is likely to improve athletic performance due to the sugar and electrolytes. However, we do not consider this drink to be healthy overall due to all of the questionable additive ingredients, and we haven't come across any convincing evidence that anyone other than elite athletes or individuals engaged in intense, outdoors endurance exercise really need supplemental electrolytes and sugar instead of regular water.
Gatorlyte vs. Pedialyte
Pedialyte is one of the most popular hydration products, so consumers are often curious about whether Gatorlyte or Pedialyte has a healthier and more effective formulation.
In our opinion, Gatorlyte is a healthier option than Pedialyte. As we documented in our review of Pedialyte ingredients, that brand contains two artificial sweeteners and two food dyes, while Gatorlyte contains zero artificial sweeteners and one food dye.
Both drinks contain an effective doses of electrolytes, so both should be similarly effective for rehydration and for potential performance benefits for athletes.
We don't recommend either product generally, but for consumers choosing between the two we'd recommend Gatorlyte.
Gatorlyte vs. Gatorade
We consider Gatorlyte to be a healthier option than Pedialyte, but how does it fare compared to original Gatorade?
A 12 ounce (oz) Gatorade, ingredients shown above, contains 48 g added sugar. Again, this may be useful to optimize performance if you're LeBron James, but in our opinion the cons of consuming this much added sugar strongly outweigh the pros for most Americans, who are already overweight on average.
We consider Gatorlyte to be healthier than Gatorade because it contains 75% less added sugar. The majority of the other ingredients are the same, so this is the main differentiator.
Are Hydration Drinks Even Necessary?
Sports hydration drinks typically consist of water, sugar and electrolytes, along with some filler ingredients. The theory behind this type of formulation is that glucose from sugar provides energy and electrolytes replace those lost by sweating.
Medical research suggests that sports hydration beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates optimize performance for professional athletes competing in endurance events (like marathons), but we can’t find any medical evidence suggesting that this type of product is necessary or beneficial for the average person (even for a non-professional athlete who exercises regularly).
If you’re going to the gym every day to jog for 30 minutes or lift weights, we don’t believe it’s necessary to use a sports hydration drink. For people trying to lose weight, we believe it’s even more illogical to consume a drink like Gatorlyte instead of water, because the additional calories are detrimental to weight loss.
Put simply, in most cases, we believe that filtered water would be a healthier and more logical option.
A sports dietitian named Derek suggests in a TikTok video that Gatorlyte can be beneficial for athletes:
@nutrition.with.derek Reply to @timothy_green2 Great timing for summer!! #Nutrition #sports #athlete #fitness #running #strength #summer ♬ original sound - Derek L. MS RD CSSD CSCC
Are Gatorlytes Packets Healthier?
Gatorlyte is not only sold in liquid form but also in powder form, called "Gatorlytes," with the ingredients shown above.
These packets contain similar electrolyte levels to the Gatorlyte drink, but significantly more sodium. The electrolyte breakdown is below:
Gatorlytes powder: 780 milligrams (mg)
Gatorlyte drink: 490 mg
Gatorlytes powder: 40 mg
Gatorlyte drink: 105 mg
Gatorlytes powder: 400 mg
Gatorlyte drink: 350 mg
Gatorlytes powder: 80 mg
Gatorlyte drink: 120 mg
What makes Gatorlytes the superior product from a health perspective is that it contains zero questionable additive ingredients. The formulation is just electrolytes, with no added sugar or artificial food dye. We would definitely recommend Gatorlytes powder over Gatorlyte drink.
Gatorlytes are also more cost-effective, with a price under $1 per serving.
Interested consumers can check out Gatorlytes at this link to the product's listing on Amazon.
Our Whole Food Sports Hydration Recommendation
The healthy sports hydration drink we recommend is Once Upon a Coconut Pure Coconut Water.
This product has one single ingredient: coconut water. There are no artificial sweeteners, no added sugars and no preservatives. Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium and vitamin C so it can provide additional nutrition while exercising compared to drinking water alone.
This coconut water brand is also packaged in an aluminum can, which we consider a much healthier option (and better for the environment) than the plastic used to package Gatorade. Plastic is definitively endrocrine-disrupting as documented in medical studies, and avoiding plastic use as much as possible can benefit health (especially for men, as plasticizing chemicals are estrogenic).
Interested consumers can check out Once Upon a Coconut Pure Coconut Water at this link to the product's Amazon listing.