After a morning of sweating up and down the soccer field, you’ve probably reached for a neon sports drink to refuel. Or after a night of vomiting your guts up, you’ve sipped on a fruity electrolyte drink for revival.
Gatorade or Pedialyte were probably involved in one of these scenarios, but is one actually better than the other?
Pedialyte vs. Gatorade: What’s the difference?
Pedialyte and Gatorade are both designed to rehydrate via fluids and electrolytes, but they’re slightly different despite both fending off dehydration.
- is marketed to athletes
- has more sugar
- is ideal to drink after serious sweating
- is marketed for recovery from illness (especially for kiddos)
- has more electrolytes
- is ideal to drink after illness
Both Gatorade and Pedialyte contain electrolytes and pretty much work the same way to rehydrate your body and treat dehydration.
Electrolytes include minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate. Their job is to:
- balance the water in your body
- balance your pH level
- transport nutrients into cells and take wastes out
- help nerves, muscles, heart, and brain work properly
Dehydration (losing water) from illness, sweating, medications, or liver and kidney problems can disrupt your electrolyte balance. You get electrolytes from food and drinks (probably plenty under normal circumstances), even if you don’t drink a commercial hydration beverage. But these drinks can help give you a boost when you’re really depleted.
Bottom line: They both rehydrate you
Sports drinks and rehydration fluids like Gatorade and Pedialyte are basically a flavored drink containing electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Sometimes other minerals and vitamins are tossed in too.
Replacing electrolytes and fluids is especially important if you exercise intensely or have been sick with vomiting and/or diarrhea.
There are some differences between the beverages sold by Gatorade and Pedialyte. These nutritional variations may impact which beverage you choose.
Here’s a look at the nutrient content of different 12-ounce servings of Pedialyte and Gatorade drinks:
|Calories||Carbs (grams)||Sugar (grams)||Sodium (milligrams)||Potassium (milligrams)||Additional nutrients|
|Gatorade Thirst Quencher||80||22||21||160||50|
|Organic Thirst Quencher||120||30||29||230||60|
|G Endurance||90||22||13||310||140||10 milligrams (mg) calcium|
|Pedialyte Classic||35||9||9||370||280||2.8 mg zinc, 440 mg chloride|
|Pedialyte Advanced Care||25||6||6||370||280||2.8 mg zinc, 440 mg chloride|
|Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus||25||6||6||490||280||2.8 mg zinc, 630 mg chloride|
|Pedialyte Electrolyte Water||5||1||0||240||130||2.8 mg zinc, 250 mg chloride|
|Pedialyte Sport||30||5||5||490||470||140 mg phosphorus, 40 mg magnesium, 690 mg chloride|
Bottom line: Gatorade = more sugar, Pedialyte = more electrolytes
- Both drinks offer sugar-free versions, but generally Gatorade has a lot more sugar than Pedialyte, which can be good if you’re engaging in intense exercise.
- Many Pedialyte drinks offer more electrolytes than their Gatorade counterparts.
- Some Pedialyte drinks add a good dose of zinc — a mineral that helps support your immune system.
Whether it’s the stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis, any sickness that causes vomiting and/or diarrhea means a lot of fluid and electrolytes rapidly exiting your body. So if you’re vomming up your guts or stuck on the toilet, should you reach for Gatorade or Pedialyte to help you avoid dehydration?
A 2006 study found Gatorade and Pedialyte were both effective at treating 75 dehydrated adults dealing with a viral digestive illness.
But, if you’re dealing with a case of the runs, Pedialyte might be better because it has a lower carb content. Large amounts of unabsorbed carbs can actually increase the flow of water and electrolytes in your intestines, making diarrhea worse.
Bottom line: Pedialyte is better for illness
While Gatorade can def help keep you hydrated while you’re sick, Pedialyte is superior if you’re dealing with diarrhea.
Try lower sugar options like Pedialyte or G2 to prevent further stomach upset. The most important thing in choosing a beverage for rehydrating during illness is to pick one the person likes and wants to drink.
If you’re super hungover, you’re likely dealing with excessive thirst, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea — all signs of dehydration.
Alcohol is a diuretic and makes you pee, causing extra fluid loss. So it makes sense an electrolyte beverage would help cure your hangover right? It’s not that simple.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism there’s actually no research showing that electrolyte beverages can help a hangover. But, it’s important to drink something nonalcoholic to get fluids back in your body. So drinking Pedialyte or Gatorade to rehydrate after a night of drinking can’t hurt.
Bottom line: Pedialyte, Gatorade, or just plain water can help a hangover
You don’t really need electrolytes to recover from drinking, but you do need fluids. Choose any (nonalcoholic) beverage of your choice and start sippin’.
Try these hangover prevention tips to rehydrate after boozing:
- Choose a beverage that won’t irritate your stomach more.
- Drink water or other noncarbonated drinks between alcoholic drinks.
- Drink a glass of water before you go to sleep, and keep a glass by the bed to sip if you wake up.
Gatorade has definitely been a top sports drink for decades, and not just because of marketing. Gatorade’s electrolytes and higher carb count (thanks to sugar) is actually better for rehydrating after an intense sweat session.
Dehydration can really mess with your performance, and carbs offer quick energy to help keep your endurance up. Basically adding carbs via a sports drink like Gatorade during your workout helps replenish your muscle glycogen stores — aka stored carbs — to help your body refuel.
Whether you need an electrolyte beverage or plain water (or chocolate milk!) after your workouts depends on a lot of individual factors:
- the sport you’re playing
- the climate and temperature
- how much fluid is available to drink
- exercise intensity and duration
- individual body specs, like size and acclimation
Bottom line: Gatorade is still the sports drink of choice
Gatorade is better for sports and training sessions thanks to its electrolytes and carbohydrates that offer quick energy. While Pedialyte contains a good dose of electrolytes, it’s less ideal for refueling after a sweat sesh because it has less carbs.
Technically, yes, Pedialyte is marketed to children. But adults can benefit from lots of things that are “for kids.”
Pedialyte is a good option for people of any age who are at risk for dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea.
It may also be a better option for older adults who have trouble processing extra sugar in drinks like Gatorade. Older adults are actually at higher risk of dehydration and will retain more fluids after rehydration because of differences in kidney function compared to younger folks.
Whether you’re dehydrated from illness or exercise, replacing electrolytes and fluids could make you feel better faster. Look at the nutrition differences between different Gatorade and Pedialyte formulas to choose the right one for you.
You may want more sugar for athletic competitions or less sugar if your stomach is irritated. Both options provide electrolytes you need for fluid balance, muscle activity, and heart and brain function.