As with most foods and drinks, there isn’t a direct answer to this question. The short answer is that there are nutrients in Powerade that can help your body replenish lost liquids and essential salts or minerals you’ve lost through sweating. But, Powerade is high in sugar, artificial flavors, salt, and artificial colors, none of which are particularly good for your health. So, is Powerade bad for you? Let’s find out.
Nutrients in Powerade
Sodium is needed for various bodily functions, including the kidney, heart, blood vessel, and nervous system (1). Our cells use sodium for energy utilization, membrane maintenance, and many other functions (2). Sweat is salty because it’s high in sodium, and we lose a lot of it when we exercise, which is why sports drinks like Powerade contain this ingredient. The catch is that high sodium isn’t healthy for us either. High sodium is particularly hard on your kidneys, which filters the salt out of your blood. Excess sodium can lead to chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems (3). Sodium intake is a fine line between replenishing what was lost during exercise and entering a high-salt condition hard on your body. Make sure you’re aware of the sodium you’re consuming and remember that salt is an ingredient in many foods, and the majority of us don’t have to work too hard to replenish lost sodium.
Potassium is an essential nutrient that is used in every tissue and organ in our body. Potassium helps nerves send their signals, muscles contract, blood volume remains constant, and kidneys function normally (4). Potassium and sodium work together to achieve many of these functions! We absorb potassium in our small intestine; then, it travels to all of the areas where it’s needed, from our head to our toes (5). In recent years, potassium has been recognized for its importance in reducing hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiac and heart disease (6).
Your glass of milk or wedge of cheese isn’t the only place to get calcium! Powerade and many other sports drinks are supplemented with calcium. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, kidney function, and intracellular messaging (7). Abnormal calcium levels (either too high or too low) can result in chronic kidney disease, osteomalacia (softening of our bones, leading to fractures), and several cellular problems resulting from improper balances of calcium for the transport of nutrients in and out of the cell (8, 9). Calcium is also needed for blood vessel function (contraction and dilation), muscle function, and hormone secretion (10).
Magnesium is another underrated but immensely important micronutrient, playing a role in the proper function of our brain, heart, and muscles (11). Magnesium has long been used in medicine since being extracted from Epsom salts in the 1600s (12). This nutrient is essential for our production of ATP, which acts as cellular energy (13). Cells and muscles harness ATP (which is made from sugars, the breakdown of foods we eat) and use it to continue their daily functions, keeping our body running. Not enough magnesium can result in cardiovascular disease (particularly high blood pressure) and many other disorders (13). A recent study found that magnesium could remedy frailty (measured by knee osteoarthritis prevalence), which means it could be an important nutrient for preventing age-related diseases involving weakness of different body systems and organs (14). Magnesium is required for several different enzymatic functions in our body that keep our cells running and communicating as they’re supposed to (15). Oat is a great source of magnesium and has several other benefits. Read “The Benefits of Steel Cut Oats.”
This vitamin is still somewhat mysterious but has significant impacts on lowering high blood pressure, reducing arteriosclerosis incidence, and even various effects on our nervous system. Vitamin B6 is required to synthesize neurotransmitters like serotonin, our “happy hormone.” (16). Like many other nutrients we’ve covered in this article, B6 is needed as a coenzyme for many body reactions that keep us going, though the mechanisms are still not fully understood (17). Incorrect fetal brain development, seizures, and depression are some of the symptoms that accompany vitamin B6 deficiency (18).
Vitamin B12 is another little-understood vitamin. B12 is related to cognitive function and has been suggested to be one of the causes of dementia, but why remains unknown (19). B12 is also needed for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis (20).
Powerade is supplemented with niacin, also called vitamin B3. Niacin is another vitamin required for glucose metabolism into ATP, forming our body’s energy source. Niacin is used pharmaceutically to treat high cholesterol and has even been implicated in preventing hip fractures in recent studies (21).
Vitamins are essential for our body’s correct functioning, and they can be water- or fat- soluble. If you want to know more, check out “Fat- vs Water- Soluble Vitamins.”
In the end, Is Powerade Bad for You?
The moral of this story is that Powerade isn’t 100% good or bad. It has many essential nutrients that are needed to keep our body running. Many of the vitamins in Powerade are related to metabolism, which may improve post-exercise recovery. It also gives you a sugar boost, which may be a good idea after a hard workout. However, Powerade contains an abundance of sugar, artificial flavors, colors, and potentially more salt than you would need to replenish, even after a hard sweat. Hydration is a good idea, and Powerade isn’t a bad idea, but it is best to get many of these vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables, and other foods they naturally occur in. Our body best absorbs nutrients from their natural source, rather than artificial supplementation. So, enjoy your Powerade now and then, but you don’t need liters of it to recover from a workout, and you should focus on maintaining a healthy, diverse diet to gain your micronutrients and vitamins. A healthy diet and a dose of pure water are what your body needs the most after a workout.