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?

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.

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:

CaloriesCarbs (grams)Sugar (grams)Sodium (milligrams)Potassium (milligrams)Additional nutrients
Gatorade Thirst Quencher80222116050
G Zero0<1016050
Organic Thirst Quencher120302923060
Gatorade Juiced409816050
G Endurance90221331014010 milligrams (mg) calcium
Pedialyte Classic35993702802.8 mg zinc, 440 mg chloride
Pedialyte Advanced Care25663702802.8 mg zinc, 440 mg chloride
Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus25664902802.8 mg zinc, 630 mg chloride
Pedialyte Electrolyte Water5102401302.8 mg zinc, 250 mg chloride
Pedialyte Sport3055490470140 mg phosphorus, 40 mg magnesium, 690 mg chloride

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.

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.

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

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.