Around 40 years ago, Gatorade was born. Through innovative marketing techniques, such as putting Gatorade jugs and cups with the Gatorade logo all over pro and college football sidelines and trying to make it seem as though the top athletes would be mediocre without it, it has become an American beverage institution. Yet since Gatorade’s introduction, several other sports drinks have sought to dethrone the king, or at least grab a big share of the sports drink pie. These include Powerade, Vitamin Water, and Sobe Life Water, among others. For marathon runners or triathletes, these beverages are vital to their performance. The mixture of electrolytes and calories found in most sports drinks replenishes what their bodies are losing during their races.
But what if your goal is not to excel at a grueling, lengthy, sporting event, but simply to lose weight? The calories in sports drinks have to be burned off, just like the calories in soda or any other caloric beverage. These calories can be counterproductive if you are a thirsty person (like me)and consume a lot of fluid while exercising. That is why I only drink low or no calorie sports drinks when I go to the gym. While not as ubiquitous on store shelves as their caloric counterparts, low calorie sports drinks have definitely found a market. I only drink ones that have no caffeine, guarana, or ginseng, as these ingredients do not help with hydration at all. Here are my five favorites:
5: Glaceau Smart Water. Fairly reasonably priced, this drink is no-nonsense electrolytes. It has zero calories and is pretty much plain water with electrolytes added in. One benefit of Smart Water is that it is generally allowed in gyms (whereas colored drinks are generally frowned upon because of the possibility to stain flooring). The main drawback with Smart Water is the taste. It doesn’t taste like plain water. It has that electrolyte chemical/salty taste to it.
4: Propel Fit Water. This Gatorade product is low calorie (10-20 calories per 8 oz serving) and tastes fairly good. It comes in more flavors than any of the other low calorie sports drinks, so if you get tired of one flavor, there’s always another out there to switch to. Propel is also clear, which is beneficial for reasons mentioned in the synopsis of Smart Water. NOTE: Propel is also introducing a caffeinated version of its Propel Water. I personally think is a bad idea, as caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it causes you to urinate and inhibits the body’s ability to absorb water and sodium. This can lead to dehydration, cramping, and muscle tightness. I will definitely NOT be using that product.
3: Sobe Life Water 0 Calorie. This comes in several flavors, contains vitamins, and is sweetened with erythritol, a natural low-calorie sweetener that does not affect blood sugar or cause tooth decay. I know, this is technically NOT a sports drink since it does not contain electrolytes, but the vitamins do help some, and it tastes quite good.
2: Fuze Empower. This is another non-electrolyte-containing drink. That being said, it does have chromium, L-Carnitine, and a citrus compound that helps the body boost energy. It contains only 20 calories per 18.5 oz. bottle. Fuze is also excellent tasting, but is a bit pricey.
1: Powerade Zero. I choose this drink the most often for three reasons: 1) The taste. Powerade Zero has the best taste of the low calorie sports drinks. All sports drinks have that somewhat unpleasant electrolyte taste (even Glaceau’s Smart Water), but Powerade Zero does the best to cover it and provide a fairly pleasant-tasting drink. 2) The price. I can get a 32 oz. bottle of Powerade Zero for just 89 cents at Target. 3) Calories. As the name implies, it has zero calories.
Any of these five beverages would be a great aid to the exerciser who wants to maximize calorie loss. Of course, if you are only exercising for less than an hour, water is still the best and cheapest.