For those who enjoy endurance workouts, electrolyte-containing beverages, such as Gatorade or Powerade, have long been a method to restore sodium lost through sweat to the body. While the drink options may not seem all that different--save for color and flavor options--there are three differences between Powerade and Gatorade that may make one more preferable than the other: sodium amount, sugar amount and sugar type used.
According to an article published in Northwest Runner magazine, available on the washington.edu website, a person loses anywhere from 900 to 1,400 milligrams of sodium per each liter of sweat. Sodium is necessary for athletic performance because it maintains the proper water level in the blood. If a person works out too strenuously and does not replace sodium lost, a condition known as hyponatremia will occur, which causes symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, muscle spasms and vomiting.
According to washington.edu, the sodium content in Gatorade is 450 milligrams per liter (mg/L) while Powerade contains 225 mg/L. For more serious endurance athletes who can lose several liters of sweat while exercising, Gatorade may be a better option in replacing lost sodium.
For high-performance athletes, sugar is necessary to aid in the absorption of both water and sugar in the blood during exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a sugar-grams-to-fluid ratio of 4 to 8 percent. Gatorade contains 6 percent sugar, while Powerade consists of 8 percent sugar.
While in this instance, both Gatorade and Powerade fall within the appropriate sugar levels, those who are especially sensitive to sugar or who are on low-sugar diets may do best choosing Gatorade.
When it comes to sport drinks, scientists aim to combine the proper amounts of sugar that can be the most quickly absorbed by the body. Gatorade uses sugars derived from glucose, which is a simple sugar used for absorption. In contrast, Powerade contains a glucose polymer, which is known as maltodextrin. While further research is yet to be conducted, some research indicates that glucose polymers are more readily absorbed than simple glucose, according to the Northwest Runner article.