2017 Sports Drink Shootout

Line up of sports drink on wall

The key data on 21 sports drinks is collated and examined to bring you an indispensable guide for choosing a sports drink for your needs.

Not all sports drinks are created equal. It is our oft recited doctrine, and it is why we are always reviewing the market for what is out there.

Our Sports Drink Shootout 2017 is here, and we are PUMPED with it. The data table we have compiled lays down the key data on 21 sports drinks, to provide you with an invaluable resource to help you make informed choices for your sports drink.

Last year we did a similar comparison with 13 sports drinks, and we have updated the comparison to include new products, updated formulations and price changes.

In pulling together this 2017 shootout, we went back to our original review in 2016. The article we wrote then is good, very good, so rather than repeating it all here we suggest you head to the original article for the detailed word on what you should be looking for in a sports drink.

In brief, we think you should be looking for…

  • Moderate carbohydrate content
  • High sodium content
  • Hypotonic osmolality
  • Natural ingredients
  • Made in Australia
  • Reasonable value for money

The 2017 Comparison

Comparing sports drinks is extremely difficult. The manufacturers present their data so differently. We take their data, crunch it to a normalised and consistent basis, and then line them up for comparison.

Just like last year, after wading through the data, it does feel like the manufacturers deliberately make direct comparisons difficult, unless it is on their terms and basis; cloaked just how they wanted it cloaked.

For the 2017 shootout, we broke the data down to compare the products on:

  • Grams of cabrohydrates per 500 mL (prepared at recommended strength)
  • Milligrams of sodium per 500 mL (prepared at recommended strength)
  • Cost per 10 grams of carbohydrates
  • Cost per 100 mg of sodium
  • Cost per litre of drink (prepared at recommended strength)
  • Osmolality (hypotonic, isotonic or hypertonic)
  • Country of origin
  • Ingredients list

And remember, what you need from your sports drink depends on what you want your sports drink to do, how you will use it, and what it will be used in conjunction with. Only you can answer that.

MegaMix Formulations

We have huge amounts of experience with some of the drinks on trial through our soigneur duties for various cycling teams. For these drinks we have dialled in on what we believe is the optimal mix strength to get the most out of them with a palatable flavour and good gut comfort.

We call these a MegaMix, and have presented these alternatives in the table beside the manufacturers recommended strength.

The Data Table

MAKER

Skratch

Skratch

Tailwind

Infinit

Torq

High5

Pro4mance

Pro4mance

Pure

Instinct

Endura

Hammer

SOS

Nuun

Shotz

Gatorade

Powerade

Sponser

Sponser

32Gi

32Gi

ATP Science

Megaburn

FLAVOUR

Raspberry

Raspberry MegaMix

Mandarin-Orange

:SPEED Orange

Pink Grapefruit

EnergySource: Summer Fruits

Produrance Sports Drink

Produrance MegaMix

Superfruits

Blood Orange

Lemon-Lime

HEED Mandarin

Citrus

Active Tropical

Berry

Lemon-Lime

Mountain Blast

Isotonic Red Orange

Competition Citrus

Race Raspberry

Endure Raspberry

InfraRed

Ammo

$

per 10g carbs

$0.74

per 10g carbs

$0.74

per 10g carbs

$0.56

per 10g carbs

$0.48

per 10g carbs

$0.43

per 10g carbs

$0.22

per 10g carbs

$0.21

per 10g carbs

$0.21

per 10g carbs

$0.64

per 10g carbs

$1.08

per 10g carbs

$0.52

per 10g carbs

$0.41

per 10g carbs

$5.41

per 10g carbs

$3.70

per 10g carbs

n/a

per 10g carbs

$0.26

per 10g carbs

$0.29

per 10g carbs

$0.57

per 10g carbs

$0.51

per 10g carbs

$0.80

per 10g carbs

$0.63

per 10g carbs

$0.97

per 10g carbs

$0.42

per 10g carbs

$

per 100mg sodium

$0.45

per 100mg sodium

$0.45

per 100mg sodium

$0.46

per 100mg sodium

$0.69

per 100mg sodium

$0.47

per 100mg sodium

$0.41

per 100mg sodium

$0.34

per 100mg sodium

$0.34

per 100mg sodium

$0.56

per 100mg sodium

$0.82

per 100mg sodium

$1.65

per 100mg sodium

$4.23

per 100mg sodium

$0.57

per 100mg sodium

$0.41

per 100mg sodium

$0.27

per 100mg sodium

$0.32

per 100mg sodium

$0.30

per 100mg sodium

$0.85

per 100mg sodium

$0.85

per 100mg sodium

$2.33

per 100mg sodium

$1.20

per 100mg sodium

$1.74

per 100mg sodium

$0.98

per 100mg sodium

$/L

at recommended strength

$6.24

per litre

$4.16

per litre

$4.66

per litre

$4.55

per litre

$2.56

per litre

$1.92

per litre

$2.35

per litre

$1.25

per litre

$3.25

per litre

$2.67

per litre

$2.93

per litre

$3.38

per litre

$7.58

per litre

$3.12

per litre

$2.33

per litre

$1.63

per litre

$1.63

per litre

$3.90

per litre

$3.90

per litre

$7.22

per litre

$3.97

per litre

$5.04

per litre

$1.96

per litre

Carbs per 500 mL

42 g

28 g

42 g

48 g

30 g

44 g

57 g

31 g

25 g

12 g

29 g

42 g

7 g

4 g

0 g

32 g

28 g

34 g

39 g

45 g

31 g

26 g

24 g

Sodium per 500 mL

700 mg

467 mg

505 mg

332 mg

275 mg

236 mg

343 mg

183 mg

290 mg

163 mg

89 mg

40 mg

660 mg

379 mg

430 mg

256 mg

272 mg

230 mg

230 mg

155 mg

332 mg

145 mg

100 mg

PACK DETAILS
Pack size, g454g454g1350g1340g1500g2200g2000g2000g500g1080g2000g2000g50g54g60g560g500g780g800g900g900g1000g700g
Pack cost$29.50$29.50$69.95$59.95$59.99$45.22$38.00$38.00$29.00$80.00$82.00$69.95$18.95$14.80$13.99$13.00$13.00$39.00$39.00$64.95$49.99$69.95$27.50
SERVE DETAILS
Dry serve size, g24162761.061647.833331436252955517.515.6788075503625
Mixed serve size, mL250250300600500500267500250100035030025047550025025010001000750700500500
Energy, kJ350233418960500751518518210422375418554224275247119513051157755437395
Carbohydrate, g21142557304430.530.512.624.820253.54015.814687768442623.6
- Sugars, g20132521101916.116.112.610.922.51015.814504246.53717.510
Sodium, mg3503033033982752361831831453266224330360430128136460460232232145100
Potassium, mg40888811565787845553120161951004256.35412968
Calcium, mg522626322545254423113129048
Magnesium, mg401414246101050640163162525206636

Osmolality
mOsm/L*

sugars and electrolytes

381

253

451

301

222

319

420

233

274

189

275

175

178

87

66

280

213

275

210

357

222

277

148

Osmolality
mOsm/L*

sugars load only

255

169

357

239

173

289

353

198

200

73

203

156

34

18

0

232

164

227

203

336

200

221

127

Made & OwnedBased out of USABased out of USABased out of USAMade in AustraliaBased out of UKBased out of UKMade in Australia
Australian Owned
Made in Australia
Australian Owned
Made in NZMade in AustraliaMade in AustraliaBased out of USAMade in USAMade in USAMade in Australia
Australian Owned
Produced in Australia*
Owned by PepsiCo
Packed in Australia*
Owned by CocaCola
Swiss Owned
Manufactured around Europe
Swiss Owned
Manufactured around Europe
South AfricaSouth AfricaAustralian OwnedMade in Australia
Australian Owned
OUR RATINGS
(out of 5)
Sodium Content5554444342.511545444422.521
Carbohydrate Content53.55545543.513.5500043.54.54.5543.53
Sodium Value44434455321034555220.5112
Carbohydrate Value3333.54555323.540005533.52.5324
Ingredients

Cane sugar, Dextrose, Mineral salts (sodium citrate, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate), dehydrated raspberries, acidity regulator (citric acid), antioxidant (ascorbic acid)

Cane sugar, Dextrose, Mineral salts (sodium citrate, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate), dehydrated raspberries, acidity regulator (citric acid), antioxidant (ascorbic acid)

Dextrose (Glucose), Sucrose, Sodium citrate, Sea salt, Citric acid, Organic flavor, Potassium chloride, Calcium carbonate, Magnesium citrate

Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Dextrose, Natural flavours, Sodium chloride, Potassium chloride, Magnesium gluconate, Calcium gluconate, Citric acid

Maltodextrin, Fructose, Citric acid, Natural flavour, Sodium chloride, Calcium Lactate, Potassium chloride, Magnesium carbonate

Maltodextrin, Fructose, Food acids (citric acid, malic acid), Acidity regulators (Tri sodium citrate, Potassium citrate), Natural flavouring, Sea salt

Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Fructose, Flavours, Food Acid (330), Sodium Chloride, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tri-Sodium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulphate, Natural Colour (Curcumin)

Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Fructose, Flavours, Food Acid (330), Sodium Chloride, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tri-Sodium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulphate, Natural Colour (Curcumin)

Sucrose, Glucose, Acai, Goji, Pomegranite, Elderberry, Blackcurrant, Blueberry, Cranberry, Strawberry, Rasberry, Citric Acid, Electrolytes (Sodium citrate, potassium citrate, magnesium citrate, Calcium citrate), Ascorbic acid

Maltodextrin, natural flavour, malic acid, citric acid, fructose, sweetener (sucralose), Active Premix (magnesium phosphate, potassium phosphate, sodium phosphate, calcareous marine algae, silicon dioxide, zinc gluconate, dried Cucumis melo juice), natural colour

Maltodextrin, fructose, malic acid, natural and nature identical flavours, Magnesium amino acid chelate, Potassium phosphate monobasic, Calcium amino acid chelate, Sodium chloride

Maltodextrin, Xylitol, Natural mandarin flavor, Vitamin B6, Sodium chloride, Alanine, Histidine, Glycine, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium L-Tyrosine, Manganese, Chromium

Sucrose, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Natural Lemon Lime with other Natural Flavours, Natural Colour, Malic Acid, Magnesium Citrate, Natural Colour, Stevia

Dextrose, Citric Acid, Sodium Carbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate, Natural Flavourings, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Sweetener (Stevia leaf extract), Avocado oil, Colouring food (Beetroot juice powder), Colour (riboflavin)

Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Carbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Sulfate, Polyethylene Glycol, Ascorbic Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavour, Riboflavin-5, Simethicone

Sucrose, Glucose, Food Acids (330, 331), Monpotassium phosphate, Sodium chloride, Flavour, Calcium silicate (552), Colour (102)

Sugar, Food acid (330), Tri-sodium citrate, Mono-potassium phosphate, Flavour, Sodium chloride, Colour (133)

Maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, glucose, isomaltulose, trehalose, acacia gum, acidulants (citric and malic acid), flavours, sodium chloride, magnesium citrate, colours, vegetable extracts, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, calcium lactate, 10 vitamins (), ascorbic acid

Starch hydrolysates (barley, rice), glucose, maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, isomaltulose, trehalose, minerals (sodium citrate, calcium lactate, magnesium citrate, sodium chloride, potassium citrate), flavours

Isomaltulose, Fructose, Maltodextrin, Natural aroma, Salt, Anti-caking agent (E460), Flavour enhancers (E300, E330), Colouring agent (E162)

Isomaltulose, Fructose, Maltodextrin, Natural aroma, Salt, Anti-caking agent (E460), Flavour enhancers (E300, E330), Colouring agent (E162)

Carbs (Dextrose, Rice Amylopectin, Honey powder, Beetroot powder, Maltodextrin), Citrulline Malate, Beta Alanine, Electrolytes (Magnesium L-Aspartate, Sodium Citrate, Potassium L-Aspartate, Calcium citrate), Creatinol-O-Phosphate, Malic acid, Schisandra berry extract, Betaine anhydrous (Trimethylglycerine), Stevia

Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Fructose, Natural Flavouring, Citric Acid, L-Glutamine, MSM, Ginger Root, Sodium, Malic Acid, Licorice Root, Magnesium Citrate, Guarana Extract, Calcium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Panax Ginseng Extract, Zinc

*Approximate only, calculated based on manufacturers ingredients list and nutrition table.

For a friendlier printable version of the table, try this…Printable Sports Drink Comparison Table.

Notes on Osmolality

Osmolality is similar to tonicity. It is either isotonic, hypertonic or hypotonic for if it matches, is greater than, or is less than the body’s levels of sugars and minerals. Osmolality influences gastric emptying rate, nutrient and water absorption rates in the gut, and overall gut comfort. It is important.

In simplistic terms, it is a measure of the number of particles in a solution. If the sports drink has a lot of particles (or “stuff”) in it, the osmolality is high and this can lead to gut discomfort and poor absorption of nutrients and water.

We recommend a sports drink mix that is quite hypotonic; good for gut comfort, hydration and nutrient uptake. We also care more for the osmolality of just the carbohydrate content, as evidence suggests that the fuel load has a greater impact on how the body responds than the electrolyte load does.

Beware the Definition of Isotonic

Australian and European food labeling standards allow the use of the term isotonic if the osmolality of the liquid is in the range of 250 – 340 mOsm/L.

Isotonic for the human body is approximately 290 mOsm/L. A drink can be substantially hypertonic yet still make claim to being isotonic.

The Acidity of Sports Drinks

We didn’t get to test the pH of all the sports drinks in this comparison, however we did test a lot of them and the results were alarming. Of the products we did get to test, all of them were quite acidic, with most having a pH in the 4-5 range with one testing as low as 3.

The combination of tooth enamel destroying acidity and high sugar content is a recipe for dental disaster. All this is a topic for another day.

The Bakers’ Assessment

We are massive fans of Skratch Labs and Torq; solid all-round performers. Torq in particular offers outstanding value for such a well-formulated sports drink. Skratch Labs osmolality is getting a bit high and we find its flavour quite strong, and as such we have created a reduced strength MegaMix that delivers an outstanding sports drink. We are big fans of Skratch Labs in that they only use real fruit for flavouring. They also have a nutrition philosophy that parallels ours in that they are believers in real-food fueling and their formulations arise from evidence-based science.

We like the look of Tailwind, but the osmolality is far too high, and the flavour is quite strong. Tailwind is pretty popular in the trail running scene so we have spent a bit of time playing around with it. Having a high carbohydrate and a high sodium content allows a reduced strength MegaMix that delivers a very good sports drink. We do however take umbrage with Tailwind marketing itself as a complete endurance fueling solution, since it is nothing more than simple sugars, salts and flavour. An excellent sports drink, yes, but a complete endurance fuel, no.

Infinit checks out pretty well, but the carb content and osmolality are getting a bit high. The sodium content isn’t especially high so running Infinit at reduced strength will have the downside of being a bit light on sodium, but this still presents as a good option. A massive plus with Infinit is that it is Australian made, though the parent company is American.

High5, Pro4mance and Pure are good drink options. The osmolality of High5 is a bit high and the sodium content a bit low, but we have used it effectively. The osmolality of Pro4mance is too high and the flavour quite overpowering so we think it should be run a reduced strength. We have fiddled with Pro4mance quite a lot and have dialled in on an optimised MegaMix. Diluted it becomes a bit too low in sodium but it is still a good sports drink. Pro4mance have recently changed their sales model and with their new pricing the value for money is outstanding. We really like Pure for the use of real fruit for flavour, but just think the sodium content is a bit underdone. A massive plus for Pro4mance and Pure is that they are Australian and Kiwi respectively.

Both of the Sponser products seem like reasonable sports drinks, our main criticism being the sodium content is too low.

We think Gatorade is actually ok and that it gets a bit of an unfair rap. It’s pretty good value for what it is, but does have the downsides of being a bit low on sodium, having artificial colour and flavour, and being owned by PepsiCo.

Both the 32Gi Race and Endure products are very low on sodium. From what we can gather, the Endure is a low-Gi version for lower-intensity activities, and the Race is a typical higher-Gi sports drink formulation, for high-intensity activities. The osmolality of the Race is too high, and being so low on sodium, a diluted mix would be unacceptably short of sodium. The 32Gi value for money is pretty poor, especially for the Race version.

ATP Science is very low on sodium. The ingredients list is also a bit exotic; we think they have over-complicated the sports drink which should be quite a simple formulation.

Instinct, Megaburn, Endura and Hammer don’t seem to corner any particular angle. Instinct is low on both sodium and carbs. Megaburn is very low on sodium, and the ingredients list is a bit exotic. Endura is very low on sodium. Hammer is very low on sodium, and we don’t like the inclusion of added amino acids that have no clear proof of beneficial effects for sports performance. What is tremendous about Instinct and Megaburn is that Instinct is made in Brisbane and Megaburn is owned and operated out of the Gold Coast.

On Powerade we have not much to say; it is little more than table sugar, table salt and artificial colour/flavour, and it is owned by Coca-Cola.

SOS, Nuun and Shotz are very expensive for what is really just a flavoured salt blend. Shotz is 100% Australian, which we are stoked about, and offers the better value so it would be our pick of the electrolyte-only varieties if that’s what you are wanting.

The Wrap Up

Not all sports drinks are created equal, not all energy gels are created equal, not all energy bars are created equal. Know what you need, turn the packets over and read the nutrition labels, and make informed choices.

Since not all energy gels are created equal either, you should also check out our A Gel is Not a Gel article, which we will also be updating soon.

As always, we are bakers with a passion for sports nutrition, but there is no substitute for guidance from the professionals, so we recommend seeing a sports dietitian.

Get more great content from Megabake by joining our newsletter service.
Just enter your email and click "Sign me up!"
Email address
Spam free & Secure

Megabake Header Logo

Share this post