There are so many options for sports drinks that it can easily become an overwhelming decision.

What are the best sports drinks? Which sport drink should you choose? We will help you to sort through some commonly available drinks to find which would suit you best.

In another article, the benefits of sports drinks vs. water were highlighted as well as how to choose one over the other. This article will zoom in on specific products, showcasing their unique qualities to the user. It is important to note that I am not receiving any sponsorship or monetary compensation from any of the companies or brands mentioned.

Does well known make the best sports drinks?

There are so many options for sports drinks that it can easily become an overwhelming decision to find the best sports drink. Keep in mind that there may be more than one beverage that suits your needs, so it may come down to taste preference or cost. I will show the differences between products under the same name as well as the differences and similarities between brands. Ask anyone what brand comes to mind when you say “sports drink” and their answer is most likely going to be Gatorade. Does that make it the best sports drink? The problem is there are no longer just the red, yellow, and purple flavors anymore; there are the original flavors, Fierce, Flow, Frost, G2, and Sports Fuel. Shown below is a chart showing the calories, carbohydrates, and other additives.

Product Calories Carbohydrates Sodium Potassium Other
Original 80 (12 fl oz) 22g (21g sugar) 160mg 45mg  
Fierce 80 (12 fl oz) 22g (21g sugar) 160mg 45mg  
Flow 80 (12 fl oz) 22g (21g sugar) 160mg 45mg  
Frost 80 (12 fl oz) 22g (21g sugar) 160mg 45mg  
G2 80 (12 fl oz) 22g (21g sugar) 160mg 45mg  
SportsFuel 100 (per pouch) 25g (23g sugar) 110mg 0mg vitamin B3 (10% DV),
vitamin B6 (10% DV),
vitamin B5 (10% DV)

*% DV=percent daily value

Looking at this chart, you may notice a lot of repetition. I am trying to drive home a point that just because a company comes out with a product of a different name does not mean it is any different than another product they may carry. The only outlier is the Sports Fuel product, which is technically a pouch meant to provide a concentrated blend of carbohydrates and B vitamins. The B vitamins aid in energy production as they help break down the carbohydrates into useable energy. All of the products provide adequate sodium, which is an electrolyte necessary in maintaining hydration.

Best sports drinks: Powerade options

Next up on our quest to find the best sports drinks is Powerade and Powerade Zero. The original products have a multitude of flavors from fruit punch to tropical mango and come in at 80 calories per 12 fluid ounces. They also contain 21g of carbohydrates (all from sugar), 150mg of sodium, and 35mg of potassium. Powerade original also gives 15% DV each of vitamin B3, vitamin B6, and B12. The Powerade Zero products have zero calories, hence the name. They have the same amount of sodium, potassium, and B vitamins. The sweet taste comes from sucralose and acesulfame potassium, which are sweeteners that do not contain calories and therefore have no effect on blood sugar. This may be beneficial for a workout done in a humid environment where the duration is under an hour, since carbohydrates may not yet need replenishing but electrolytes will.

Propel is owned by Gatorade but contains 160mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium per 12 fluid ounces. This flavored water has zero calories and contains B vitamins (35% DV each of B3, B5, and B6) as well as vitamins C (30% DV) and E (15% DV), which act as antioxidants and can prevent muscle soreness. The powder packs provide slightly more sodium (210mg) and potassium (60mg) per 12-oz serving than other sports drinks and best, can be convenient when you are traveling or aren’t using the drink immediately.

The previous products are well-known in the fitness industry, but there are still plenty of products out there to experiment with during your workouts. Which one of these drinks is best for the type of sport you play? The next product is Isopure, which comes in a multitude of forms. I will break it down into a table again to make it easier to compare the products.

Product Calories Carbohydrates Sodium Potassium Other
Natural 100 (16 fl oz) 5g (5g from sugar) 5mg 20mg 20g protein
160 (20 fl oz) 0g 80mg 45mg 40 protein
10.2g BCAAs
Cocotein 100 (16 fl oz) 5g (5g from sugar) 85mg 250mg 20g protein
5.1g BCAAs
40% DV phosphorus
190 (8 fl oz) 33g (11g from sugar) 35mg 0mg 15g protein
25% DV vitamin E
25% DV vitamins B3 and B6
Mass 350 (20 fl oz) 53g (13g from sugar) 70mg 40mg 35g protein
8.9g BCAAs
Plus Zero
60 (8 fl oz) 0g 20mg 0mg 15g protein
25% DV vitamin E
25% DV vitamins B3 and B6
Tea 170 (20 fl oz) 1g 45mg 45mg 40g protein
10.2g BCAAs
40mg (black lemon) OR
73mg (green lemon) caffeine

*BCAAs: branched-chain amino acids

Looking at this chart, the products seem to vary much more than the Gatorade products despite different names. All of them contain as least some protein, which is unique to the Isopure brand. They use a filtered whey isolate protein that gives the beverage a “clear” look. Protein during a workout may not be optimal since the body has to work much harder to digest it than a simple carbohydrate, so saving these drinks as a pre- or post-workout sports drink may be best. They still provide some sodium and potassium, but it is clear the Cocotein provides a drastically higher amount of potassium. This is due to the coconut water contained in the beverage, which is naturally high in the electrolyte. Another outlier is the Mass product, which contains more calories from carbohydrates and protein. This is meant to catch the attention of athletes looking to put on weight without having to consume solid foods. It is much easier to ingest liquid calories when you are trying to gain muscle since it does not take up as much space as, say, a chicken breast and brown rice. Another unique product is Isopure Tea, which provides some caffeine in addition to protein. This does not contain many carbs (only 1g), so this may be beneficial as a post-workout pick-me-up in addition to some other carbohydrate source for recovery. Some of these products also contain BCAAs, which are the building blocks of protein. These can help with recovery and prevent muscle soreness after a workout.

Other products, such as electrolyte tablets by Nuun and coconut water, can help provide electrolytes without a lot of extra calories. Nuun tablets dissolve in water and contain only 10 calories per tablet. They have 360mg of sodium, 100mg of potassium, 25mg of magnesium, and 13mg of calcium to help with muscle function. Unflavored coconut water contains around 45 calories per cup and 9g of carbohydrates. It also contains many essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin C, in addition to the whopping 600mg of potassium and 252mg of sodium. These sports drinks are best for intense workouts in humid environments where a lot of excess calories may not be necessary.

While it is easy to get overwhelmed in the beverage aisle at the grocery store, it is important to realize that these products contain roughly the same components in different amounts. The best sports drink for you may ultimately come down to taste. Experiment with which products help you perform at your highest level as well as which taste the best. Best of luck!