The science behind sports drinks


Audrey Combs

Popular sports drinks like Gatorade can be found at grocery stores globally and are commonly bought by athletes and people who want to feel an extra boost of energy.

Audrey Combs, AVT Editor

Before a long run or a workout, many people drink Gatorade or other sports drinks in order to feel a boost of energy for the day. But what many people don’t know is the components that cause you to feel this way. 

One contributing factor that causes sports drinks like Gatorade to make you feel more awake and present is the caffeine content. Caffeine acts as a blocker to adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Adenosine nourishes sleep and with the role of caffeine, it prevents this and in return increases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel more alert. 

“The caffeine in energy [and sports] drinks is a stimulant so it increases [the] heart rate which would give you that extra energy from that extra stimulating effect of increased heart rate. Sometimes depending on the drink, they also add B vitamins, and other added things that also like would increase [the] energy level as well,” said science teacher, Renee Ogle. 

In addition to dopamine, caffeine releases adrenaline, a hormone that acts upon your fight or flight response. Adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands that caffeine triggers. This contributes to increased attentiveness and energy and is a reason why many people reach for sports drinks.

“I drink Gatorade because when I’m outside all day it gives me a boost of energy. My favorite flavor is the grape one just because I feel like it’s the most refreshing,” said Adam Frerich (‘23).

Sports drinks like Gatorade provide a great source of carbohydrates through the form of glucose. The glucose gets converted into energy by cellular respiration, a process where sugar is broken down and converted into usable energy. 

“In the short term, the carbohydrates would give you energy. As that sugar enters the blood quickly you would have an increased amount of sugar so that would increase your quick energy but then you would have a crash after that quick energy release,” said science teacher Renee Ogle. 

Electrolytes within these sports drinks aid in balancing fluid levels that can be lost through physical activity like sweat and urination caused by caffeine.

“[Electrolytes are added in them] like potassium, magnesium, sodium. It’s to balance the fact that caffeine is a diuretic and makes you urinate excess and they are adding electrolytes to help balance that. They [can also] help with muscle contractions and nerve impulses but not energy,” said science teacher, Renee Ogle.

Combating the loss of water through electrolytes, the content of electrolytes can be especially useful during long periods of exercise like running, kickboxing, and cycling. 

“I like Gatorade because it tastes good and helps me stay hydrated while running. I like to drink it after a race or a workout and my favorite flavor is fruit punch. It’s my favorite flavor because It’s an OG and I’ve been drinking it for years,” said Sean Kadkhodayan (‘23).

Alongside Powerade and Vitamin Water, Gatorade provides a multitude of flavors. The next time you buy Gatorade at the store, you can choose what flavor best suits your taste. We went ahead and rated the flavors based on our personal preferences. 

Audrey Combs