A big part of my job as a nutrition coach is to help athletes develop a proper hydration strategy, and this always turns into a conversation about Gatorade. It’s a fine product, but there are many alternatives available that are better in different situations.
So, what are the best Gatorade substitutes? The best Gatorade substitutes are Nuun Endurance and Tailwind Endurance Fuel as they are high in electrolytes but have less sugar than Gatorade. Like Gatorade, these products can be taken during or after exercise to help you recover and improve your performance.
Below, I’ll discuss why you should consider an alternative, as well as my complete list of 17 substitutes for Gatorade, including natural alternatives, cheaper replacements, and homemade options.
Why You Should Consider A Gatorade Alternative (4 Reasons)
Gatorade is a great product for the right person at the right time, but it’s not for everyone.
There are four main reasons why you may want to look for a replacement:
- High in sugar
- High in calories
- Does not have caffeine
- It’s a processed food product
Let’s discuss each of these further.
High In Sugar
By design, Gatorade contains a lot of sugar – about as much as a soda.
This sugar provides plenty of readily available carbohydrates to fuel exercise, but not everyone needs or wants all that sugar all the time.
This is why alternatives with all the electrolytes but far less sugar are becoming more popular.
High In Calories
If you are carefully tracking calories, or prefer to get most of your calories from whole food sources, a low-calorie or calorie-free replacement can be a great option for staying hydrated during intense or prolonged exercise.
Though Gatorade is full of sugar that can be quickly absorbed and used to fuel exercise, it does not offer the same energizing benefits that other caffeine-containing alternatives provide.
As caffeine has consistently been shown to improve exercise performance, a caffeinated alternative can make a lot of sense.
Is A Processed Food Product
If you prefer to avoid processed foods, you may want to look for a natural Gatorade replacement rather than the other highly-processed sports drinks available.
Staying hydrated doesn’t mean you must consume artificial flavors, colors, or dyes. There are natural alternatives that are free of any such additives.
What To Look For In A Substitute
There are four things to look for when choosing a Gatorade alternative:
The first thing to consider when choosing a Gatorade alternative is how much sugar you want in your sports drink. Sports drinks with sugar help replenish glycogen as you burn it, but that’s not always needed.
A 20 oz bottle of Gatorade contains 48g of sugar, which is the same amount found in some cans of soda. These sugars provide plenty of fuel for physical activity lasting longer than 70 minutes, but they are unnecessary in many situations.
If you’re trying to lose weight, working out for less than an hour, and/or prefer to get your calories from whole food sources, sugar-free options can help you stay hydrated without adding sugar and calories.
Be sure to look at the sugar content of any substitute you’re thinking of trying and use a nutrition tracking app like Lifesum to monitor your daily intake.
Electrolyte Hydration and Electrolyte Tablets
The main benefit of a sports drink is to help you stay hydrated. This requires both water and electrolytes as you lose electrolytes through your sweat.
Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium.
They’re critical to helping maintain the body’s fluid balance, regulate muscle contractions, and transmit nerve impulses.
Electrolyte hydration after you sweat helps you recover and maintain athletic performance. In addition to an electrolyte drink, electrolyte tablets are also available.
Before deciding on substitutes, be sure to research their electrolyte content – sodium citrate is the most important electrolyte to replace during (or after) extended intense exercise.
When picking a replacement, you should consider whether or not you want something caffeinated. As caffeine has been shown to improve exercise performance, a caffeinated sports drink can be an attractive option, but it is not suitable for every situation.
While I occasionally give my nephews a sports drink to keep them hydrated during tournaments, I wouldn’t give them something caffeinated.
However, if you’re an adult, and training/competing for an extended period (i.e. over an hour), caffeine can significantly improve your time to exhaustion. Choosing substitutes with added caffeine in these situations can be a good choice.
There are many different sweeteners used in sports drinks, both natural and artificial. If you have a preference or allergy, it’s important to know what your drink of choice is sweetened with.
An 828ml bottle of Gatorade contains 48g of sugar. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but you should know what you’re about to consume before doing so.
As sports drink sweeteners range from cane sugar and dextrose to zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and sucralose, you have many options when it comes to the type and amount of sweetener in your sports drink.
Substitutes For Gatorade: 17 Options
I’ve broken the alternatives into the following categories:
- Sports Drink Alternatives
- Caffeinated Alternatives
- No Sugar Alternatives
- Natural Alternatives
- Homemade Alternatives
Sports Drink Alternatives
Sports drinks come in both liquid and ready-to-mix powder or tablet form and are specifically formulated, like Gatorade, to replace carbohydrates and/or electrolytes lost during physical activity.
1. Nuun Endurance
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 19g scoop of Nuun Endurance|
Nuun Endurance is a powdered carbohydrate and electrolyte supplement that makes an excellent sports drink when mixed with water.
It is very high in sodium (380mg), potassium (200mg), and magnesium (20mg).
Though it is sweetened with cane sugar and dextrose, Nuun Endurance is low in calories compared to Gatorade (60 calories in Nuun vs 190 in Gatorade).
If you are doing a long, slow endurance activity such as hiking or biking, your body will be burning mostly body fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, but you’ll still be sweating a lot.
It is during these types of sessions that Nuun Endurance shines as it will replace the electrolytes lost through your sweat without forcing you to consume unnecessary carbohydrates.
2. Tailwind Endurance Fuel
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 27g scoop of Tailwind Endurance Fuel|
Tailwind Endurance Fuel is a powder you add to water to create a substitute that is high in electrolytes (310mg sodium, 90mg potassium, and 12mg magnesium) and provides 100 calories in the form of carbohydrates.
Sweetened with dextrose and sucrose (table sugar), Tailwind Endurance Fuel contains roughly half the calorie and sugar content of Gatorade (100 calories and 25g vs 190 calories and 48g carbs).
If you find Gatorade’s sweetness overpowering and can get by with half the calories, the lighter Tailwind Endurance Fuel may be a better option.
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 900ml bottle of Powerade|
Powerade is the most similar Gatorade alternative available. Powerade contains nearly an identical amount of calories (200 vs 190), carbohydrates (53g vs 51g), and sodium (375mg vs 380 mg) as Gatorade.
Unlike its competitor, which is sweetened with plain sugar, Powerade is sweetened with high-fructose corn-syrup.
Due to the minimal amounts of potassium and magnesium in Powerade, I suggest Gatorade over Powerade to my clients.
4. Vitamin Water Refresh
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 591ml bottle of Vitamin Water Refresh|
Vitamin Water Refresh is an electrolyte enhanced sports drink. It contains roughly half the sugar (in the form of cane sugar) as Gatorade (27g vs 51g), but it also contains fewer electrolytes, too.
However, it is very high in vitamin C, vitamins B5, B6, B12, and vitamin E. If you consume sports drinks regularly, the added vitamins in Vitamin Water Refresh may be a better fit if your diet is low in nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
But if you need something to get you through a long, strenuous workout, the higher amounts of carbohydrates and electrolytes make Gatorade the better option.
5. NOOMA Organic Sports Drink
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 500ml carton of NOOMA Organic Sports Drink|
Nooma Organic Sports Drink is exactly what it sounds like: it’s full of organic ingredients and is non-GMO, vegan, keto-friendly, and gluten-free. It contains no added sugar and is sweetened with organic stevia leaf extract.
Though it contains fewer calories (30 vs 190), carbohydrates (7g vs 51g), and sodium (110mg vs 380mg), it is very high in potassium (340mg) and magnesium (20mg).
If you want something designed to help rehydrate you but without all of the added sugars, dyes, and flavors, Nooma Organic Sports Drink is a great option.
6. Scratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 22g scoop of Scratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix|
Scratch Labs Sports Hydration Drink Mix is a powder that contains the same amount of sodium (380mg) as Gatorade with less than half the sugar (20g vs 48g).
Cane sugar and dextrose are the leading ingredients, but Scratch Labs Sports Hydration Drink Mix packs a powerful electrolyte punch and is verified non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
If you want to control the level of sweetness (and therefore carbohydrate content) in your sports drink, you can add more or less Scratch Labs Sports Hydration Drink Mix to your water as you see fit.
Caffeinated Alternatives To Gatorade
Not every situation calls for added caffeine, however, if you are looking for a little extra energy in your sports drink, these caffeinated substitutes are your best options.
7. Nuun Energy
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 5.2g tablet of Nuun Energy|
One Nuun Energy tablet has the same amount of caffeine as two cups of coffee and is relatively high in all three main electrolytes (100mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 15mg magnesium). However, it has next to no calories.
If you want to train in a near-fasted state, are on a large calorie deficit, or are training/competing for 12+ hours through the night (like an ultramarathon or similar event) and can get your calories from other sources, Nuun Energy can be a good way to provide instant energy and replenish electrolytes.
8. Tailwind Nutrition Caffeinated Endurance Fuel
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 27g scoop of Tailwind Nutrition Caffeinated Endurance Fuel|
Tailwind Nutrition Caffeinated Endurance Fuel is identical to the non-caffeinated version, only it has an additional 35mg of caffeine.
If you want something less sweet, but with all the electrolytes and an extra energy boost in the form of caffeine, Tailwind Nutrition Caffeinated Endurance Fuel is perfect.
9. Vitamin Water Energy
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 591ml bottle of Vitamin Water Energy|
Vitamin Water Energy is a caffeinated Gatorade alternative that is high in caffeine (it has more caffeine than a cup of coffee) and provides some carbohydrates (27g). However, it contains no electrolytes whatsoever.
If you’re looking for something to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweat, you should stick with Gatorade or one of its many other alternatives.
No-Sugar Alternatives To Gatorade
If you want to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat but do not want the sugars and calories found in Gatorade and other sports drinks, these three no-sugar Gatorade alternatives are calorie-free. No-sugar Gatorade alternatives are great if you are trying to lose weight or would rather get your calories from whole food sources.
10. Biosteel Hydration Mix
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 7g scoop of Biosteel Hydration Mix|
Biosteel Hydration Mix is a no-sugar alternative powder you mix with water. To get the same amount of sodium and potassium as a bottle of Gatorade, you would need to use three scoops of Biosteel Hydration Mix.
Sweetened with stevia, Biosteel Hydration Mix has no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners and is essentially calorie-free.
11. Powerade Zero Sugar
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 900ml bottle of Powerade|
A bottle of Powerade Zero Sugar has more sodium than a bottle of Gatorade, but that’s about all it has.
Powerade Zero Sugar contains no sugar, calories, potassium, or magnesium – it is essentially flavored salt water.
Sweetened with the artificial sweetener sucralose, Powerade Zero Sugar will not provide you with any usable energy.
12. Gatorade Zero
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One 2.9g packet Gatorade Zero|
Gatorade Zero is a no-sugar alternative to their more popular Thirst Quencher product.
One packet of Gatorade Zero has less sodium (230mg vs 380mg) and potassium (70mg vs 110mg) than a bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher, and is essentially calorie-free as it is sweetened with the artificial sweetener sucralose.
Natural Alternatives to Gatorade
Though sports drinks are specifically formulated to replace electrolytes and replenish glycogen stores, there are also natural ways to accomplish these goals. The following natural beverages will help you recover quickly from exercise.
13. Coconut Water
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||828ml of coconut water|
Coconut water has become quite popular over the past few years as it is naturally high in the electrolytes sodium (224mg), potassium (1,414mg), and magnesium (210mg).
It is a great natural alternative, providing ample calories (154) and a plethora of electrolytes.
14. 1% Milk
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One cup of 1% cow’s milk|
In addition to the protein and carbohydrates milk is known for, it’s also quite high in electrolytes – cow’s milk contains large amounts of sodium (107mg) and potassium (366mg).
It’s no surprise, then, that milk often outperforms most commercially available recovery drinks.
Not only is cow milk a natural Gatorade alternative, but it’s also a cheaper substitute.
15. Chocolate Milk
|Nutrition Information||One 828ml bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher||One cup of chocolate milk|
Chocolate milk isn’t exactly natural, but it is higher in calories (209 vs 103), carbohydrates (26g vs 12g), sodium (150mg vs 107mg), potassium (418mg vs 366mg), and magnesium (32mg vs 24mg) than regular 1% milk, making it a better Gatorade alternative for those who don’t mind the added sugar.
And, like 1% milk, chocolate milk is a cheaper alternative, costing roughly half as much.
Homemade Gatorade Recipes
As the main ingredients in Gatorade are water, sugar, and salt, you can easily make a homemade Gatorade alternative. A homemade alternative can be as simple as adding a dash (or half a packet) of salt (~155mg of sodium) to fruit juice or Kool-Aid as seen in the recipes below.
16. Homemade Orange Juice Gatorade
|Nutrition Information||One Serving (1.5 cups) of Gatorade||Homemade Orange Juice Gatorade|
Orange juice alone is a very close substitute as it contains 111 calories (compared to 80 in Gatorade), 26g of carbs (compared to 22g in Gatorade), and nearly 10x the amount of potassium and magnesium.
Though it lacks sodium, this can be solved by adding a dash of salt to your juice.
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 dash of salt
17. Homemade Gatorade Powder Recipe
|Nutrition Information||One Serving (1.5 cups) of Gatorade||Homemade Gatorade Powder Recipe|
Sometimes taking a powdered electrolyte and carbohydrate mix makes life much easier.
If you need to carry your electrolytes and fuel during a long race, for example, it’s much easier to carry powder you can mix with water at refill stations than it is to run with several bottles of Gatorade.
Though this homemade powder recipe lacks potassium or magnesium (making it an almost exact Powerade substitute) it is easy to put together with ingredients found almost anywhere.
- ¼ packet of Kool-Aid Drink Mix (1g)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 dash of salt
Can You Replace Electrolytes Through Food?
Sports drinks make it easy to quickly replace electrolytes lost during a workout but you can also replace electrolytes through food. The sodium, potassium, and magnesium lost through sweat can be replaced with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The best foods to eat to replace electrolytes include:
Eating pickles is one of the best ways to replace the sodium lost through sweat as one pickle contains 140mg of sodium. You can replace more sodium by eating three pickles (420mg sodium) than drinking a bottle of Gatorade (380mg sodium).
One small olive contains approximately 24mg of sodium. If you’re on a ketogenic diet, choosing olives over Gatorade to replace your electrolytes can be a great choice as they are high in healthy fats (.3g/small olive) and low in non-fiber carbohydrates (.1g/small olive).
One cup of spinach contains 24mg of sodium and 156mg of magnesium. The best part about it, though, is how easy it is to throw into smoothies and shakes. You can add a cup of spinach to nearly any type of smoothie and not even notice it’s in there.
There is roughly 420mg of potassium in one banana compared to just 50mg of potassium in one 828ml bottle of Gatorade. Bananas are equally as portable and just as great in a smoothie as spinach. Adding a cup of spinach and a banana to a smoothie is a great way to include many electrolytes lost through sweat.
Bananas get all the hype, but avocados are the true potassium powerhouse. One avocado contains roughly 975mg of potassium – over twice as much as found in a banana – and 58mg of magnesium.
One beet contains roughly 64mg of sodium in addition to 19mg of magnesium and 260mg of potassium. Cooked beets can be enjoyed warm with nearly any dish but are also great cold on salads and are a great way to replace lost electrolytes.
7. Watermelon Juice
Watermelon contains a large amount of water. Eat watermelon whole or it’s ideal for juicing or smoothies.
Watermelon juice will help you avoid dehydration by providing fluid, vitamins and electrolytes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Drink Is The Same As Gatorade?
Powerade is the most similar drink to Gatorade. One serving of Powerade has 150mg of sodium compared to 160mg in Gatorade, and 21g of sugar compared to 22g in Gatorade.
What Is Better Than Gatorade For Electrolytes?
One 19g scoop of Nuun Endurance contains more electrolytes than a bottle of Gatorade. Nuun Endurance is higher in sodium, potassium, and magnesium than Gatorade.
Are There Natural Alternatives To Gatorade?
Coconut water and milk are the best natural alternatives to Gatorade. Coconut water is lower in calories and sugar, making it a good choice for weight loss. Milk is high in protein and carbohydrates, which helps if you’re trying to build muscle or recover quickly from a workout. Both are high in electrolytes.
What Is Sodium Citrate?
Sodium citrate refers to the sodium salts of citric acid including monosodium citrate, disodium citrate and trisodium citrate. They are used as acidity regulators in food and drinks. Sodium citrate has been proven to help increase the absorption of fluid and other electrolytes.