Is Gatorade Good for Kids? Dietitians Reveal Best Ways for Children to Hydrate

Eva Hagan - Author

Jan. 4 2024, Published 2:58 p.m. ET

A Gatorade water bottle sits on the boards at the bench during an NHL game
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In the world of sports drinks, Gatorade has dominated the scene for decades. It was invented in 1965 and got its name from the University of Florida’s mascot, the Gators. Before it was the flavorful drink we all know today, it was a mix of salts and sugars to help athletes recover more quickly from their workouts, especially in the heat.

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But Gatorade has evolved a lot since then, along with our knowledge of nutrition. It’s a colorful beverage full of sugar which makes it a popular pick for young athletes, but is this sports recovery drink good for kids?

We talked to Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, LD, founder of Vegan Kids Nutrition, and Sarah Olszewski, MS, RDN, CDN, founder and CEO of Sarah Lynn Nutrition, and nutrition advisor for Cure Hydration, exclusively about their thoughts on Gatorade as a drink for kids — and what they recommend instead.

A young girl drinks a glass of red juice with ice.
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Is Gatorade good for kids?

Gatorade could be good for kids in certain conditions, but generally, it is not necessary for children. According to Karla Moreno-Bryce, Gatorade was made as a source of electrolytes during periods of very intense exercise.

When it comes to kid’s sports, Moreno-Bryce tells Green Matters exclusively: “Oftentimes these activities don't lead to significant sweating, so there may not be a need to replenish lost electrolytes. However, a sports drink may be helpful for kids in certain scenarios, particularly if a sports drink is the only source of hydration or if they participate in an intense sport in hot and/or humid environments.”

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A bottle of red Fruit Punch flavored Gatorade sits in front of a pair of ten pound weights.
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The sugar content of Gatorade is one of the main concerns with the beverage. Sarah Olszewski tells Green Matters exclusively: “Gatorade contains a high amount of refined sugar, which over time has been linked to risk for health effects such as weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, and hyperactivity. Gatorade also contains preservatives, 'natural flavor,' and artificial colorings which can contribute to additional negative health impacts.”

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According to Healthline, Gatorade could be healthy for kids who are exercising for long periods, especially if they are sweating a lot and working out in hot conditions. If you are struggling to get your kid to drink water during intense activity, trying to get them to drink something like Gatorade could help. However, according to a study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, most people who drink Gatorade don’t need the extra electrolytes and are often just consuming more sugar.

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Healthier alternatives to Gatorade:

Although Gatorade won’t kill you, it does contain a lot of sugar, which isn’t great to consume on a daily basis. Therefore there are some better hydration options out there.

According to Moreno-Bryce, a healthier alternative to Gatorade includes a mixture of water, 100 percent orange juice, any sweetener, and salt. Other options include a glass of coconut water, or lemonade mixed with sweetener and salt. Not only are these less expensive, but they will cut down on the high sugar content found in most sports drinks.

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Two boys playing baseball with a mountain in the background during a sunny day.
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Olszewski also recommends coconut water, along with fruit-infused water. Additionally, Olszewski serves as the nutrition advisor for Cure Hydration, and she recommends Cure’s hydrating electrolyte mixes. According to Olszewski, these "which come in portable packets, taste amazing (there are eight flavors for your kids to choose from!), and contain only real, non-artificial ingredients including coconut water, Himalayan sea salt, lemon juice, and monk fruit."

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According to Business Insider, another recovery drink option is tart cherry juice, which can help muscle recovery after strength training.

Although Gatorade isn’t the worst thing your kid could be drinking, there are healthier options out there. At the end of the day, if you are worried about extra sugar and calories, plain water is the best option for healthy hydration.

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