Do Sports Drinks Count as Fluid?

Ever since a group of University of Florida researchers invented a beverage designed to hydrate its athletes better than water, the sports drinks industry has been booming. According to Beverage Industry, sports drinks remain one of the go-to beverages for Americans, with sales of more than $10 billion annually from 2021–2022 (an 18 percent increase over the previous year). That initial product, named for the school’s mascot, was Gatorade, and today it’s only one of hundreds of drinks that claim to power athletic performance and maintain proper hydration through electrolytes.

Getting enough fluid each day is essential even for non-athletes. It’s vital to overall health, and contributes to basic bodily functions, including temperature regulation, waste elimination, and joint movement, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While recommendations vary depending on age, activity level, and other factors, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that women get about 2.7 liters (L) of fluid per day and men get about 3.7 L per day. Food, being part water, will deliver approximately 20 percent of those amounts, which means women should aim to drink about 2.2 L — nine 8-ounce (oz) cups — of water per day, and men should aim for 3.0 L — 13 8 -oz cups You can get a more personalized recommendation by using a hydration calculator.

But do sports drinks actually live up to their hyper-hydration claims? Are these beverages, as marketers would have you believe, actually a better way to meet your daily goals for fluid intake than plain water? Read on to find out.

Water vs. Sports Drinks: How Do They Compare?

A prominent claim made by many brands of sports drinks is that they contain electrolytes, which aid hydration. Electrolytes are natural minerals, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium, that help cells maintain fluid balance, and you lose them when you sweat, reports Cleveland Clinic. Plain water does not replenish these substances.