BodyArmor is a popular sports nutrition drink that positions itself as a healthier alternative to other sports drinks like Gatorade. The brand highlights on its website that their products contain antioxidants, “potassium-packed electrolytes" and no artificial sweeteners, flavors or dyes.
But is BodyArmor actually good for you based on its ingredients? What's in BodyArmor anyway? Is it healthier than Gatorade? And do BodyArmor drinks contain any unhealthy additive ingredients?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review the ingredients in BodyArmor original, BodyArmor Lyte (the no-added-sugar version) BodyArmor SportWater and BodyArmor Edge (the most potent version) to give our take on whether the drinks are healthy or not.
We'll compare the healthiness of BodyArmor to Gatorade and highlight some questionable ingredients in BodyArmor drinks.
BodyArmor Ingredient Review
BodyArmor drinks come in a variety of flavors, all of which have a similar formulation. The above ingredient label is from BodyArmor Blue Raspberry flavor, but our comments hold for all BodyArmor flavors.
The first thing worth noting is that this product contains a relatively high amount of cane sugar, at 21 grams (g). Medical research suggests that excessive intake of added sugar is associated with negative health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Americans already consume a significant amount of added sugar daily, so we typically recommend avoiding foods and drinks containing added sugar. While a sweet drink can theoretically provide athletic performance benefits, we don’t believe that sugar-sweetened drinks are a good choice for most consumers.
Coconut water concentrate is a healthy, whole foods ingredient which is rich in potassium. We also consider it a good sign that this product is colored with vegetable juice concentrate, which is a much healthier option than artificial dye.
There are also some ingredients in BodyArmor we recommend avoiding.
Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that’s found in citrus fruit, but over 90% of its production for manufacturing comes from a fungus called Aspergillus niger, according to a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal. This review documents how citric acid can cause whole-body inflammatory reactions in a small subset of patients.
Natural flavors is a broad categorization that fails to define the specific chemical compounds used as the flavoring agents. As we explained in our Isagenix reviews article, it seems illogical to consume anything without knowing exactly what it is. We recommend avoiding all food and drink products with "natural flavors" as a listed ingredient.
This drink has a large number of added vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and vitamin A. BodyArmor provides no explanation on their website as to why they include all of these vitamins, and we haven’t come across any medical evidence that supplemental synthetic vitamin blends improve athletic performance.
For consumers without a vitamin deficiency, consuming additional vitamins from fortified foods and drinks could push blood levels of those vitamins (especially fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A) into an unhealthy range.
Overall we would not consider this drink to be good for you and we would not recommend it. We do consider BodyArmor to be healthier than Gatorade, because it contains less added sugar per bottle and is free of artificial food dye.
BodyArmor Lyte Ingredient Review
The ingredient list above is from BodyArmor Lyte Blueberry Pomegranate flavor.
The formulations of BodyArmor and BodyArmor Lyte are quite similar. BodyArmor Lyte contains citric acid, natural flavors and a blend of added vitamins; all ingredients we recommend avoiding.
It also contains coconut water and vegetable juice concentrate; both whole food ingredients we consider healthy.
The core difference between the two products is that BodyArmor Lyte is sweetened with natural sugar alternatives erythritol and stevia leaf. We consider these to both be healthier choices than added sugar, and to be excellent choices for a sugar-free sports nutrition drink.
Erythritol actually has anti-diabetic effects when appropriately dosed, as evidenced in an extensive meta-study published in 2020. This is the opposite effect of processed cane sugar. The researchers in the linked article noted that erythritol has documented metabolic benefits.
Stevia leaf has anti-inflammatory and potentially anti-hypertensive (blood pressure lowering) effects according to a medical review. The study authors did note that there is some early evidence suggesting that stevia may have an anti-fertility effect.
While we typically would recommend avoiding sugar alternatives altogether, and only consuming sugar in fruit or whole food form, we do believe that these natural sweeteners are healthier options than added sugar. We consider BodyArmor Lyte to be healthier than BodyArmor, and we consider BodyArmor Lyte to be significantly healthier than Gatorlyte (Gatorade's low-calorie drink).
BodyArmor Water Ingredient Review
BodyArmor sells a water product called “SportWater” with a relatively simple formulation: reverse osmosis (which is a filtration process) water and some added electrolytes.
The brand advertises that this water is alkaline, with a pH level greater than 9. There is actually some legitimate medical research suggesting that alkaline water may provide health and exercise benefits. A clinical trial published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that alkaline water consumption improved anaerobic exercise performance compared to tap water.
We consider SportWater to be BodyArmor’s healthiest formulation and would recommend it. There are no questionable additives in this formulation. Interested consumers can check out BodyArmor SportWater at this link to the product's Amazon listing.
BodyArmor Edge Ingredient Review
BodyArmor Edge is the brand’s most potent formulation, and not in a good way. The product contains 44 g of sugar, which is 5 g more than a 12 ounce Coca-Cola (source). For this reason alone, we would recommend avoiding this product. Even for elite athletes that may need simple sugars to refuel, we feel there are healthier alternatives to this high of a dose of cane sugar.
For the average, sedentary American consumer we would consider this product to be a terrible health choice.
Edge also contains 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, which is a safe dose equivalent to around one cup of coffee. Consumers with high blood pressure may want to avoid this caffeine dose but for healthy adults it shouldn’t be an issue.
All of the other ingredients are essentially the same as regular BodyArmor, although the electrolyte levels in this product are slightly higher which we don’t believe makes a significant difference.
We consider this to be BodyArmor’s worst formulation from a health perspective.
Are Sports Drinks Really Necessary?
One of the most popular YouTube videos evaluating whether sports drinks like BodyArmor are necessary for the average consumer is published by CBC News and has been watched over 600,000 times.
The reporters actually test whether sports drinks improve athletic performance for regular individuals and speak with a range of medical experts to determine whether the drinks are necessary. One of the medical experts interviewed ran tests and concluded that only 2% of consumers exercise to a degree of intensity to where sports drinks are necessary over water:
Our Natural Sports Nutrition Drink Recommendation
We recommend Vital Proteins Collagen Water as a healthy beverage for consumers who are seeking a sports nutrition drink.
Vital Proteins Collagen Water is flavored with whole foods ingredients. As an example, Vital Proteins Blackberry Hibiscus Collagen Water is flavored with blackberry juice, lemon juice, hibiscus extract and orange oil. These are all nutritious botanical ingredients.
This drink also contains 10 g of protein in the form of collagen. A medical review published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal found that consuming protein pre-and-post workout increases muscle protein synthesis (what causes new muscle to be formed).
Vital Proteins Collagen Water is free of any toxic or questionable additive ingredients. It has no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, no vitamin blends and no citric acid.
Interested consumers can check out Vital Proteins Collagen Water at this link to the product page on the brand's website.