Whether or not your sports drink acts more as a hangover cure than a workout buddy, the unnaturally bright beverages are total health imposters in disguise! While the heavily marketed beverages do in fact contain the electrolytes and water needed after a strenuous workout, many (ahem, Gatorade) pack in a hearty helping of calories and more than double your daily recommended amount of sugar!
And instead of fueling your spinning sesh, these insidious calorie bombs can actually undo all your hard work. What’s more, many of these thirst-quenchers are packed with toxic additives like wood rosin and artificial dyes, which are linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children. Instead of chugging a bottle chock full of bogus claims, read on to find out exactly which sports drinks do as they declare. And then consider filling up on some of these 17 Ways to Eat Your Water.
Zico Coconut Water
Nutrition (per 11.2 fl oz carton): 60 calories, 0 g fat, 90 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: electrolytes, more potassium than a banana
Ditch the artificially dyed sports drinks after your next workout for coconut water, which only turns pink sometimes because of natural processes. That’s part of what we love about Zico — it’s natural, 100 percent coconut water full of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and sodium without any added ingredients or sugars. The company claims “It’s what inside that counts,” and we couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to refueling your body. Lucky for us, coconut water is both delicious and effective; a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that it equalled sports drinks in terms of post-workout hydration. And as if that’s not convincing enough, it’s got heart benefits as well. According to a study in the Journal of Cell & Tissue Research, coconut water helped reduce rats’ cholesterol and blood pressure.
But if it’s protein you’re after and this isn’t cutting it, check out the 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes For Weight Loss instead.
$16.81 per 12 pack ($1.40 each) at Amazon.com
Horizon Organic Lowfat Chocolate Milk
Nutrition (per 8 oz box): 150 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (0 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 8 g protein
Because It Contains: more electrolytes and potassium than water and sports drinks
If you used to love drinking chocolate milk as a kid, you shouldn’t have stopped. This blast from the past has more to offer than just a sweet, creamy taste. Turns out it’s great for ending a workout as well, partly due to its calcium content — 30 percent of your recommended daily value — which can hinder fat storage in your body. It also has a balance of carbs, protein, and fat levels that can help you regain energy, build muscle, and even perform better in future workouts. An article in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that cyclists drinking chocolate milk after vigorous cycling sessions rode 51 percent longer in later sessions compared to those who’d had standard recovery beverages. So just because everyone else is lugging bottles of Gatorade to the gym shouldn’t stop you from chugging chocolate milk with pride on your way out.
$15.04 per 12 pack ($1.25 each) at Amazon.com
Nutrition (per tablet with 16 fl oz water): 10 calories, 0 g fat, 360 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: electrolytes and vitamin C
Pick a flavor, any flavor. Nuun’s got nine kinds of active hydration tablets that are extremely portable and convenient. Just toss them in your water bottle after a workout and you’re good to go. In addition to the sodium and potassium found in most sports drinks, these also contain calcium and magnesium, so when it comes to hydrating and replenishing your body, you really can’t go wrong with Nuun — especially since they came out with new flavors. Watermelon or strawberry lemonade, anyone?
$36.35 per 30 pack ($0.61 each tablet) at Amazon.com
Aloha Organic Protein Powder
Nutrition (per 2 scoops, vanilla): 150 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 18 g protein
Because It Contains: omega-3s, iron, and magnesium
If you were loving that Zico coconut water, but craving protein, look no further. Throw some of that into a blender along with Aloha Organic Protein Powder, peanut butter, and a banana, and you’ve got a delicious shake that hits all the bases. In general, protein shakes are great for repairing muscles after a workout, but this organic brand, in particular, is plant-based with protein from peas, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds. Aloha ranked first on our list when We Tested 10 Protein Powders not just because it skips out on the artificial flavors and colors sometimes found in others, but also because it tastes great, too.
$28.49 per tub ($1.90 per serving) at Amazon.com
EBoost Natural Orange
Nutrition (per 5.4 g packet): 5 calories, 0 g fat, 45 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g protein
Because It Contains: electrolytes, antioxidants, and vitamins
Combining 12 ounces of water with this powder packet may create a bright orange drink reminiscent of the Gatorade we’ve been telling you to dump, but EBoost is much different, trust us. The fact that it doesn’t have any artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners already puts this fizzy drink a step above regular sports drinks, but it’s got even more to offer. With more than 100 percent of your recommended daily value of essentials like vitamin D, B12, and zinc, plus natural caffeine from green tea and green coffee seed, we dare you to try feeling exhausted and sluggish post-workout with some of this in your system.
$21.91 per 20 pack ($1.10 each) at Amazon.com
Chameleon Cold-Brew Vanilla Coffee
Nutrition (per 10 fl oz bottle): 40 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (0 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: caffeine and sugar
If you aren’t performing as well as you’d like to in the gym, maybe all you need is a little caffeine. A study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance found that cyclists in an hour-long trial could ride about a mile farther if they took a caffeine supplement, as opposed to a placebo. But that doesn’t mean you should stop at Starbucks on your way to the gym or grab a Monster energy drink. The benefits of most caffeinated beverages are masked by crazy amounts of sugar, so try a cold brew like Chameleon Cold-Brew Vanilla Coffee. It only has 7 grams of organic cane sugar.
$2.98 per 10 fl oz bottle at Amazon.com
V8 Low Sodium Vegetable Juice
Nutrition (per 8 fl oz): 50 calories, 0 g fat, 140 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein
Because It Contains: potassium and 2 servings of vegetables
Sometimes you’ve got to be dripping with sweat to feel like you’ve worked out hard enough, but this can lead to dehydration if you aren’t careful. That’s where V8 Low Sodium Vegetable Juice comes in. Not only does it have two servings of veggies, but it’s got enough potassium and sodium to replenish your body of the electrolytes you lost working out. And besides these short-term gym benefits, fueling up with V8 does work in the long-term as well. Filling your diet with things that are low in sodium and high in potassium can reduce blood pressure and stroke risk.
$15.12 per 24 pack ($0.63 each) at Amazon.com
Nutrition (per stick dissolved in 16 fl oz water): 45 calories, 0 g fat, 500 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (0 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: potassium, sodium, and 5 essential vitamins
Remember that hydration we talked about? Yeah, it’s still really important. When your body’s losing more water than it’s taking in, you’re missing out on the opportunity to burn more calories, reduce signs of aging, and increase mental clarity. You’re also leaving yourself susceptible to side effects like headaches, dizziness, and muscle fatigue — but not if you mix Liquid I.V., into your bottled water. This hydration multiplier has three times the amount of electrolytes found in traditional sports drinks and can provide you with the same hydration you’d have gotten from two or even three bottles of water, delivering nutrients into your bloodstream directly.
$19.82 per 8 count ($2.50 each) at Amazon.com
Nutrition (per 30 oz bottle): 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g protein
Because It Contains: electrolytes and minerals for perfect pH
We get it. Some people are just water people. And that’s where Core Hydration comes in. This water has been enhanced with just enough electrolytes and minerals to help rehydrate you. Plus, after going through a 7-stage purification process, Core Hydration is balanced to work in harmony with you by matching your body’s natural pH. And if you’re wondering why exactly that’s a good thing, consider this: Too much acid in your body can lead to lung buildup, which can cause asthma and other respiratory issues we want to avoid when working out. So chug some of this if you want to be just as balanced on the inside as you are on your yoga mat.
$28.49 per 12 pack ($2.37 each) at Amazon.com
Nutrition (per 12 fl oz bottle): 60 calories, 0 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 1 g protein
Because It Contains: potassium, citrulline, vitamin C, lycopene
When perfectly good watermelons are blemished or otherwise deemed unworthy of a grocery store, they’re trashed! Luckily, WTRMLN WTR uses these discarded melons, plus organic lemon, to create their sweet drink — and that’s it. Without any added sugar or water, the high levels of potassium and cancer-fighting lycopene in this drink are naturally occurring. So sucking down this or any of the other ginger, lemonade, lime, or cherry flavors won’t just help out a discarded watermelon, but will work wonders in your body as well.
$2.99 per 12 fl oz bottle at Amazon.com
Aloe Gloe Aloe Water
Nutrition (per 16 fl oz container): 36 calories, 20 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: over 200 biologically active amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals
When most of us think of aloe, we think of rubbing it all over our sunburned bodies, not drinking it, but it turns out there are benefits to ingesting this skin firmer and fat burner. The only problem is, most aloe drinks are loaded with way too much sugar, which is why we like Aloe gloe Aloe Water with just 8 grams of the sweet stuff. This brand has other flavors like lemonade, coconut, and white grape, and all of them are sweetened with organic stevia. If you’re wary of all artificial sweeteners because you’ve heard they lead to overeating, give this one a chance. A study in Appetite found that drinking a cup of tea with sugar caused people to eat 300 more calories later on than people who drank stevia-sweetened tea. A calorie increase like that could override a workout, which is why stevia-sweetened aloe water is a better choice than Gatorade or another sugary sports drink.
$27.48 per 12 pack ($2.29 each) at Amazon.com
Happytree Maple Water
Nutrition (per 12 fl oz bottle): 35 calories, 3 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 0 g protein
Because It Contains: naturally-occurring electrolytes, vitamins B1 & B2, antioxidants such as manganese
For a drink that’s a little sweeter and thicker than water but just as hydrating, look no further than happytree Maple Water. It’s got one ingredient, organic maple water straight from the tree, which means it’s free of the added sugars and preservatives found in most sports drinks. With more to offer than just its naturally sweet flavor, happytree Maple Water is also packed with energizing B-vitamins and more than half of your recommended daily value of manganese. This antioxidant is known for thwarting joint damage and inflammation, two things you’ll want to avoid after an intense workout.
$48.00 per 12 pack ($4.00 each) at Amazon.com
Nutrition: 0 calories, 0 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g protein
Because It Contains: water!
While all of the drinks we’ve mentioned have their own tastes and nutritional benefits, don’t forget about chugging plain old water. Not only is it zero calories, but drinking from the tap is way cheaper than splurging on other flavored, enhanced drinks. So unless you’re working out intensely for more than an hour, this is the perfect choice when you want to cut back on calories, sugar, or spending. But if you’re bored by the thought of straight up H2O after that drool-inducing line-up, check out these 50 Best Detox Waters For Fat Burning And Weight Loss to spruce your water bottle right up.