Sugar Content of Sports Drinks

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Woman drinking sports drink

While sports drinks can provide you with energy during workouts, such beverages often contain added sugar, which can lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. Depending on the type and duration of your workout, you may or may not need sports drinks during exercise. If you use sports drinks regularly, knowing how much added sugar you should ingest daily and the sugar content of your favorite drink is a must.

Sugar Content of Sports Drinks

The table below lists some popular sports drinks and corresponding sugar and calorie content.

Sports Drink Name Sugar Content (per 12 oz.) Calories 12-ounce servings per bottle Total sugar/calories
Gatorade 21 grams 80

1 (12-ounce bottle)

2.5 (30-ounce bottle)

21 grams/80 calories

52.5 grams/200

Low-Calorie Gatorade 7 grams 30

1 (12-ounce bottle)

2.5 (30-ounce bottle)

7 grams/30 calories

17.5 grams/75 calories

Powerade 21 grams 80

1 (12-ounce bottle)

2.5 (30-ounce bottle)

21 grams/80 calories

52.5 grams/200 calories

Powerade Zero 0 grams 0

1 (12-ounce bottle)

2.5 (30-ounce bottle)

0 grams/0 calories

0 grams/0 calories

PowerBar Perform

15 grams 105 1 scoop makes 8 fl oz.

10 grams/70 calories (per scoop)

Sqwincher 26 grams 105

1 (12-ounce bottle)

1.7 (20-ounce bottle)

26 grams/105 calories

44 grams/179 calories

Sqwincher Zero 0 grams 0

1 (12-ounce bottle)

1.75 (20-ounce bottle)

0 grams/0 calories

0 grams/0 calories

Invigorade 13.5 grams 90 1.33 (16-ounce bottle) 18 grams/120 calories
Aspire 8 grams 35

1 (12-ounce bottle)

8 grams/35 calories

Propel Workout Water

0 grams 0 2 (24-ounce bottle) 0 grams/0 calories

EFS Electrolyte Powder

12 grams 72 1 scoop makes about 16 fl oz. 16 grams/96 calories (per scoop)

ABB Speed Stack

0 grams 11 1.8 (22-ounce bottle) 0 grams/20 calories
Greater Than Low Calorie 10.5 45 1.33 (16-ounce bottle) 14 grams/60 calories

Added Sugar Recommendations

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests getting no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar. This means consuming no more than 200 calories (50 grams) daily when eating 2,000 calories per day, and no more than 250 calories (63 grams) of added sugar when eating 2,500 calories daily. Drinking a large bottle of a sports drink could cause you to meet, or exceed, this requirement -- so drink smaller amounts or choose sports drinks lower in sugar and calories if you're watching your weight.

Do I Need a Sports Drink?

If your workout lasts less than an hour, you likely don't need a sports drink during exercise. However, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reports you can significantly boost endurance exercise performance by drinking a carbohydrate-containing sports drink when your workouts last 60 minutes or longer. ACSM also notes that many commercial sports drinks contain 13 to 19 grams of carbohydrates from sugar in each 8-ounce portion. Diet sport drinks that lack calories and sugar provide you with flavor and electrolytes, but won't boost your energy like regular sports drinks.

Benefits of Protein Drinks

Consuming sports drinks containing protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes is beneficial after workouts. This combination of nutrients helps your muscles recover after strenuous workouts and aids in rehydration, according to a 2013 issue of Today's Dietitian.

Drawbacks of Sports Drinks

While sports drinks can boost endurance exercise performance and help prevent low blood sugar when you're working out for extended periods, potential drawbacks exist as well. If you're ingesting sports drinks regularly and working out for short periods, you're getting extra calories from sugar that can lead to unwanted weight gain. Diet sports drinks containing artificial sweeteners often increase sugar cravings, which can also negatively affect body weight. Cold water is generally best for workouts lasting less than 60 minutes.

Bottom Line

You don't necessarily need sports drinks during workouts lasting less than one hour. However, sports beverages containing a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes help your body recover after workouts.

Sugar Content of Sports Drinks