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Sports Drink: Gatorade vs. Pedialyte

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 4/26/2010

In the great debate of Gatorade vs. Pedialyte for athletes, what are the facts and which one comes out on top?

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    Because both Gatorade and Pedialyte contain electrolytes, some people may wonder if Pedialyte is as effective as Gatorade for athletes. This overview of Gatorade vs. Pedialyte explains the benefits of each product, the reasons athletes use sports drinks and how each stacks up within those uses.

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    Dehydration in Athletes

    The Gatorade Sports Science Institute has published three questions and a chart athletes can use to monitor their own hydration levels. The questions and chart target thirst, morning urine color (dark yellow may indicate dehydration) and careful body weight tracking.

    Research presented in the same publication explains the importance of athletes maintaining hydration and how rapidly athletes can lose proper hydration; especially when working out in heat or for long periods of time. Athletes are advised to consume fluids during their workout or performance.

    One key factor in maintaining hydration is keeping the proper balance of electrolytes. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Without them in proper balance, you can become dehydrated.

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    Gatorade was first conceived of in 1965 when University of Florida Gator football assistant coach Dwayne Douglas became concerned about player weight loss accompanied by relatively little urination amongst multiple members of the team. The research conducted then, along with experimentation in flavor and components resulted in the sports drink now known as Gatorade.

    From the beginning, Gatorade has been marketed for use by athletes and by those participating in rigorous physical activity such as playing sports, working out and competing athletically.

    The reason touted for Gatorade to be used has always been to combat dehydration. Its comprised, basically, of carbohydrates and electrolytes.

    In an article published by the University of Florida Office of Research, UF College of Medicine Dean C. Craig Tisher is quoted as saying, “The ingestion of Gatorade by athletes at all levels of competition, as well as by ‘weekend warriors’ — especially under conditions of extreme heat and humidity — has undoubtedly prevented countless episodes of heat stress and heat stroke," Tisher says. “Further, the use of Gatorade in medical conditions associated with extreme dehydration, such as diarrheal diseases and other causes of volume depletion, offers the medical community a relatively simple and inexpensive way to manage conditions that are often life-threatening."

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    Pedialyte has always been marketed as a product for infants and children who are at risk for dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. The electrolytes in Pedialyte help prevent dehydration in infants and children who are ill.

    The FAQs section of the Pedialyte website states that the difference between Pedialyte and sports drinks is that sports drinks are ‘too high’ in carbohydrates and ‘too low’ in sodium. These are important considerations when treating dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea in infants and children.

    For athletes, however, the difference can make a difference, as well. With lower carbohydrates and higher sodium, athletes could experience different results with Pedialyte than they do with Gatorade.

    Abbott, the company that makes Pedialyte, has various information pages concerning their products and uses for them. Among them is the Abbott Nutrition page for athletes. On this page, there is no mention of any Pedialyte products. The only products promoted for use by athletes are found in the EAS line of products. Pedialyte is marketed only for use with infants and children as a means of combating dehydration due to illness.

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    In a pinch, Pedialyte would work better than water for athletes fighting dehydration, but athlete-formulated sports drinks, such as Gatorade, may better address the specific needs of athletes, long-term. In the battle of Gatorade vs. Pedialyte, in this case, Gatorade is the winner.

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    Dehydration Education. Pedialyte Website.

    FAQs. Pedialyte Website.

    Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Sports Science Exchange #97, Volume 18, Number 2.

    Gatorade: The Idea that Launched an Industry. Joe Kays & Arline Phillips-Han. University of Florida, Office of Research.

    Abbott Nutrition. Sports & Active Living.


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