Best (and Worst) Picks for Sports Drinks

BY MOLLY KIMBALL, RD, CSSD

 

The summer heat can be brutal and really do a number on our hydration levels. When looking for options to stay hydrated, many turn to ordinary sports drinks, which may not always be the best answer, as many are packed with copious amounts of added sugar. However, there are a few options out there that optimize hydration and fuel performance without overloading you on the sweet stuff.

 

Read on for my picks for the best – and worst – sports drinks on store shelves.



 

Key points to keep in mind:
  • It’s essential to replenish electrolytes, particularly when losing large amounts of sweat.
  • Sodium is the main electrolyte lost in sweat.
  • Sugar-containing sports drinks are typically only needed when your exercise session is longer than 60 to 90 minutes.

 

LOVE IT!

Sports drinks with little or no sugar | good for workouts lasting one hour or less

 

Body Armor LYTE

  • The LYTE version is hands down my top pick for a regular grab-and-go sports drink
  • Per 16-ounce bottle: 20 calories, 18 grams carbs, 2 grams sugar, 40 milligrams sodium and 700 milligrams potassium
  • No artificial sweeteners or colors (sweetened with stevia; colored with natural juice extracts)

 

nuun hydration electrolyte drink tabs



  • Per tablet: 10 calories: 4 grams carbs, 1 gram sugar, 300 milligrams sodium and 150 milligrams potassium
  • No artificial sweeteners or colors (sweetened with stevia; colored with vegetable juice extracts)

 

Ultima Drink Powder

  • Per scoop: 0 calories, 0 carbs, 0 sugar, 55 milligrams sodium and a small amount of potassium
  • Ingredients include cane sugar, dextrose and minerals

 

Pickle Juice

  • The acetic acid in pickle juice can help relieve a cramp within seconds

 

LIKE IT!

Sports drinks with moderate sugar content | good for workouts longer than 90 minutes and/or high sweat losses



 

nuun ENDURANCE Drink Powder

  • Per scoop: 60 calories, 16 grams carbs, 15 grams sugar, 380 milligrams sodium and 200 milligrams potassium
  • Ingredients include sucrose, dextrose, natural blueberry flavors, beet juice powder and stevia

 

MyHy Active [by former LSU QB Matt Flynn]

  • Per packet: 60 calories, 12 grams carbs, 12 grams sugar, 640 milligrams sodium and 130 milligrams potassium
  • Ingredients include sugar, minerals, stevia

 

Bolt 24 by Gatorade



  • 16.9-ounce: 80 calories, 20 grams carbs, 19 grams sugar, 230 milligrams sodium and 60 milligrams potassium
  • Contains sugar, stevia, natural plant-based colors

 

HATE IT!

Sports drinks with added sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, plus artificial food dyes

 

Powerade ULTRA & Gatorade ZERO:

  • Per 12 ounces: 0 calories, 0 carbs 0 sugar, approximately 300 milligrams sodium and approximately 100 milligrams potassium
  • Contains artificial food dyes and artificial sweeteners (sucralose and acesulfame potassium)

 

G2



  • Per 12 ounces: 30 calories, 8 grams carbs, 7 grams sugar, 160 milligrams sodium and 45 milligrams potassium
  • Contains artificial food dyes and artificial sweeteners (sucralose and acesulfame potassium)

 

Gatorade & Powerade

  • Per 12 ounces: approximately 80 calories, 21 grams carbs, 21 grams sugar, 150-160 milligrams sodium and 35-45 milligrams potassium
  • Ingredients include sugar/high fructose corn syrup and artificial food dyes

 

Editor’s note: Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is she paid to recommend items.