Faceoff: What All-Natural Sports Drinks Are Worth It?

by TaylorR

Sports Drink Taste Test

Sports drinks…

Can’t live with um, can’t live without um. Well, okay, so we could probably live without them but let’s be real…

After a really tough workout or a long day of being out in the heat, guzzling down a flavored sports drink is almost as good as drinking an ice cold beer after spending a day at the beach!

Almost.

And they do have their place when it comes to healthy fitness and nutrition.

Benefits Of Sports Drinks

  • Hydrating… anytime you can get liquid in after a tough sweat session is a plus!
  • Replenishes… during long bursts of exercise (60 minutes or longer) you drain your body of essential electrolytes. Electrolytes help fight muscle cramping and fatigue, so it’s important to help replenish them. The most common electrolytes are of course sodium, chloride, potassium and calcium!
  • Fuel… most sports drinks also contain easy to digest sugar, important for energy during workouts and for replenishing sugar post workout. Blood sugar is important! In fact, even just swooshing a drink in your mouth and spitting it out can increase performance, according to this recent study.

But not all sports drinks are created equal.

Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are often over processed, filled with fake chemicals and sugars, and quite frankly are overloaded with what you really need. Not to mention they are meant to be diluted with water… which most people never do.

When I was an athlete (growing up), I was always told by my coaches that we should dilute our Gatorade with water for a 50:50 combination.

For that reason, I’ve always stayed away from most calorie filled, sugar laden drinks, however with half marathon training in full swing and temperatures near 100-degrees, I’ve been wanting to look for some hydrating pre/post workout drinks to help recover and give me that ultimate “ahhh” quenched thirst feeling.

And what better way to do my research then here.

My “Healthy” Sports Drink Challenge

Let me set this up for you…

On Monday, I swung by Earth Fare to stock up on every brand of sports drink they offered.

Yes, I opened up my wallet to run this experiment, none of the following products were given to me for review. These are my 100% honest thoughts and opinions (though even if they were gifts, I would be brutally honest).

The Variables

Now that we have our drinks, what is going to decide if it’s worth our money?

Two things…

  1. Overall nutritional profile <— Sugar/ingredients/electrolytes/etc
  2. Overall taste <— I don’t want something that I have to pinch my nose to get down!

The Sports Drink Lineup

Here’s what we’re working with today…

drink-roundup

From left to right we have…

PowercocoDrink CHIAONHaloUltima ReplenisherVega Sport Energizer (Pre Workout)

Now, I know what you might be thinking…

How can you do a fair taste test?

I tried my best to get flavors that are similar. All of them are either raspberry or blueberry to keep them some what similar.

Fair enough?

Once sipped, I’ll rate it on a scale of 1-10 and of course blab on about any additional stand outs.

Okay, let’s do this…

PowerCoco: Blue Raspberry

powercoco

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 25 – Sodium 90mg – Potassium 180mg – Sugar 5g
  • No artificial color or flavor, high fructose corn syrup
  • Proudly claims “6x the amount of potassium of other leading sports drinks.
Overall PowerCoco a pretty good nutritional profile.

However, my only criticism would be the low sodium in comparison to the potassium. For long, intense workouts a bit more sodium is preferred. In fact, a study from the American Chemical Assoc. discovered that while coconut water is a great “sports drink” by itself, it’s better suited for shorter workouts to help muscle cramping… because of the high levels of potassium.

Taste:

Oh my, this stuff is so good! But if you don’t like coconut water, don’t waste your money… the raspberry doesn’t mask it.

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 8!

The verdict:

Overall, this drink rocks!

However, based on the nutrition and flavor you would be just as good off buying a bottle of normal coconut water. The prices were the same.

And remember, it is best for hydrating shorter workouts. I will be enjoying the rest of this during my lifting session this afternoon.

Drink Chia: Lemon Blueberry

drinkchia

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 50 – Sodium 0mg – Potassium 30mg – Sugar 5g – Protein 1g – Fat 2g
  • Lots of additional vitamins and nutrients such as B6 & B12 (130%), Zinc (130%) and Iron (4%)
  • Proudly claims to help hydration, endurance, heart health, brain power, and fun.
  • The ingredient list is quite filled with all natural ingredients and several add-ins.

Because of the low electrolytes, and the fat… this is perhaps not the best drink to enjoy right after a workout when you want a quick absorption rate to the muscles.

However, it might make for a great pre-workout fuel (mainly because of the B vitamins, the energy vitamins) paired with some peanut butter toast or whatever your go-to is.

On a scale of 1-10 for nutrition, I give this an 6!

A little higher than in the middle because of the vitamins and minerals in the drink.

Taste:

Awful.

Seriously, I wish you could see my face as I just looked like I took a tequila shot.

The taste is bad, the chunks of chia are gooey (which is to be expected) and awkward.

Overall… gross.

On a scale of 1-10, I give this a 2!

The verdict:

You won’t see me adding this to my cart anytime soon.

The nutritional benefits simply don’t outweigh the ridiculous flavor. Chia seeds are amazing for your body, however there are plenty of other ways to enjoy them.

On: Raspberry Limeade

on-drink

I was pretty excited to test this baby! It sounds so good!

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 30 – Sodium 25mg – Sugar 8g
  • Additional vitamins- Vit C (25%) B6 (25%) and B12 (25%)
  • Proudly claims to increase stamina, boost brain power, and enhance focus.
  • Contains caffeine (50mg) from tea leaf extract and the amino acid, onithine (linked to the benefits above).
  • Contains Erythritol which is a sugar alcohol – AN ADDITIVE.
  • The ingredient list is quite filled with all natural ingredients and several add-ins.

The Erythritol turned me off from this drink and I am quite disappointed.

Sugar alcohols are linked to gas, bloating, sugar cravings, and more. These are little monsters you want to try and avoid… in fact, they were even on my Foods To Avoid List!

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 5!

I’m just mad about the added sugar alcohol, but I do like the caffeine which is great for a pre-workout drink and even interesting studies showing it can be good during too.

Taste:

Against my better judgment, I did the taste test anyways.

And I am not surprised… it taste great.

Slight flavors of both the lime and the raspberry come through. It’s really refreshing.

But when you add fake stuff, of course it’s going to be optimized for taste, right?

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 9!

Verdict:

It was great up until the erythritol. I really hate sugar alcohols and they way they make me feel. Because of that, I am scratching this one off my list as a pre or post workout drink.

Halo: Strawberry Raspberry

halo

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 25 – Sodium 0mg – Sugar 6g
  • The ingredient lists 3 items: Reverse osmosis water, cane sugar, Trehalose, natural flavors and citric acid. Making this by far the least processed beverage of any of them!
  • No preservatives (weird, since that’s what Citric Acid is), no artificial colors or flavors, and Non-GMO
  • Proudly claims: “Trehalose has shown in scientific studies to be anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, neuro-protectant and to reduce cell damage from dehydration.

I am right there with you, what is trehalose?

Trehalose is a natural sugar. And according to this study from Food Chem Toxicology, …Trehalose functions in many organisms as an energy source or a protectant against the effects of freezing or dehydration. It also possesses physical and/or chemical properties that are different than other sugars, which may make trehalose an attractive ingredient in food, health and beauty and pharmaceutical products.

Pretty interesting!

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 7!

Mainly because I’m intrigued and it’s not that bad looking.

Taste:

Love it!

It’s an infused water, so the flavor is light yet refreshing.

This is perfect if you hate overly flavored drinks. The strawberry flavor is a bit more prominent than the raspberry but still not overbearing.

Really good!

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 9!

Can’t give a perfect score right?

Verdict:

I am going to do more research on Trehalose (for another post) but I really love this hydrating drink! I am all for it!

Finally, another one that gets an approval stamp!

Ultima Replenisher: Red Raspberry

ultima

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 15 – Sodium 5mg – Potassium 75mg – Sugar 3g
  • Additional vitamins- Vit C (167%) is the major with many additional nutrients.
  • Proudly claims to be plant based, sweetened with stevia, no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. Non GMO, No MSG, No Soy, and Vegan.
  • I love that the vitamin C is from real fruit, not added absorbic acid.

From a nutrition stand point, this looks great!

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 8!

Because there’s always something missing in these nutrition labels.

Let’s see if it passes the taste test! (And if you’re curious, I really am tasting these as I type this. It’s real time blogging).

Real Time Taste Testing

Taste:

For a powder, it’s really good! I barely had to give it a stir for the powder to dissolve, there are no chunks or chalky tastes.

Very Crystal Light-Like in taste.

I wonder how it would be with a splash of coconut rum… just kidding (kind of).

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 9!

Verdict:

A great option to help replenish nutrients post workout! And with the powder, I love that you can just keep these in your car to have access to them as needed.

And last…

Vega Sport Pre Workout Energizer: Acai Berry

vega-energ

No raspberry or blueberry for Vega. This is as close as it got. The mysterious Acai Berry.

I’ve been a big fan of Vega for years, so I have high hopes for this pre-workout mix.

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • Calories: 70 – Sodium 57.5mg – Potassium 50mg – Sugar 12g
  • Additional add-ins for energy like Yerba mate, green tea, rhodiola, Devils Claw and ginseng.
  • Proudly claims to be plant based with no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners to help athletes get in the zone with energy and focus.

From a nutrition stand point, looking good!

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 9!

I actually like the Yerba Mate, green tea, and rhodiola which are all caffeine energy boosters. Perfect for before a workout and as we learned about, during too. Of course if you don’t like to dink caffeine this is not the drink for you.

Devils claw is an herb called Harpagophytum. Have fun pronouncing that!

It’s actually used for muscle pain among many other things. However, it’s the muscle pain that I’m sure Vega put this in the drink for.

Let’s see if it passes the taste test! Plus, I am drinking it right before I head out on a run, so I’m using it for it’s purpose!

Taste:

On a scale of 1-10, I give this an 8!

In comparison to the Ultima, it doesn’t blend quite as easily but after a few stirs, it’s good enough.

Flavor wise, it’s great. But it throws me off because though it’s berry flavored (and smell), the color is very natural… a brown-orange color.

But, I will say that I know many of my friends use this for a pre-energizer and rave about it!

Verdict:

I’m sold. It did great to keep me feeling good for my run and went down easily!

The Best Of The Best

I can’t sign off without giving my final, ultimate verdict…

The winner goes to:The Powercoco & the Vega Energizer!

Both of these are great options if you’re training and really need some help on fuel and hydration.

Like I said, sports drinks definitely have their place!

What’s your favorite post workout drink? Post beach?

 

  • http://www.itzyskitchen.com Erica

    I’m going to pick up the Power Coco and the Halo today!! Thanks for the reviews. I’m always looking for a good post workout drink!

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      The PowerCoco is so flippin good!

  • http://thechickenscoop.net Angela

    I have been wanting to try the Vega Sport drink so it sounds like I definitely should! Great review!
    ~Ang

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Def try it out Angela, at most stores like Whole Foods you can buy a single packet to try!

  • Sheena

    I tried the chocolate vega protein powder and I was no loving it, it’s now my protein pancake maker :S I’ll have to give the brand another shot though now that you’ve endorsed it :)

  • http://www.thetinyterror.com Amy Lauren

    I’m really not a fan of these types of drinks and usually just stick with water, but I have tried the Vega and Ultima. Vega is pricey and I won some Ultima in a giveaway. I do think any of these are better than Gatorade or Powerade, though!

    I never realized that Earth Fare had so many options for sports drinks. I’ll have to check them out the next time I go there and maybe try a few of these, they might help!

  • Lonnie

    Another one you should try is called Wholedration. I believe it is brand new so you have to order it, but it is awesome. Organic and non-gmo, great nutrition profile, very high quality ingredients, and the taste is amazing! I’ve been using it for a month now for my cycling training and have been very impressed with how well it works and how easy it is on my stomach. Thanks for the great reviews on the above products!

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