Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 27, 2021

Although it's not specifically marketed to vegans, Gatorade is pretty transparent about the ingredients used in their sports drinks.

The tricky part is that a couple of the ingredients may be unacceptable to some vegans.

So, a little bit of chemistry is in order when trying to answer the question ‘is Gatorade vegan?’’.

We’ve done a ton of research to find out if vegans can enjoy an electrolyte-packed bottle of Gatorade. Read on to find out the answer on this tricky question.

Can Vegans Drink Gatorade?

A "blue bolt" flavor of a sports drink

The original version of Gatorade is considered vegan since it doesn’t contain any ingredients that directly involve animals, like meat or dairy derivatives.

However, it does contain sugar, natural and synthetic flavors, as well as artificial colors, which can sometimes be based on animal ingredients or tested on animals.

All three varieties of Gatorade, Original, Frost, and Fierce, come with a wide array of flavors.

Each of these flavors contain more or less the same ingredients and dyes, including Yellow 5, Red 40, and Blue 1.

The abundance of Gatorade flavors and ingredients makes it a challenge to give a final answer to the question, ''is Gatorade vegan?''

Another ingredient that often causes headaches to most vegans is refined sugar. Keep on reading to learn why this is the case.

Gatorade Ingredients

Close up shot of a sports drink brand

Gatorade was launched back in 1965 when a football coach at the University of Florida requested a team of doctors to devise a solution for dehydration-related issues commonly found in athletes.

But, what exactly is inside a bottle of this sports drink?

The list of ingredients is specific to each flavor, but common ingredients used in all Gatorade flavors include:

water, sucrose (table sugar), dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, and flavoring/colorings; blue 1, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, blue 1, depending on the flavor.

Some Gatorade flavors are also kosher-certified: 

  1. Original Thirst Quencher - contains sucrose, natural flavor and flavoring/coloring ingredients - kosher-certified
  2. G2 - Low Sugar Thirst Quencher - contains sugar, natural and artificial flavor, red 40 and blue 1 - kosher-certified
  3. Zero Thirst Quencher - contains natural flavor, and yellow 6 - kosher-certified
  4. Flow Thirst Quencher - contains sugar, natural flavor, artificial colors yellow 5 and blue 1
  5. Fierce Thirst Quencher  - contains sugar, natural and artificial flavor, blue 1 and red 40
  6. Fierce Fruit punch + Berry - contains sugar, natural flavour, and red 40
  7. Frost Thirst Quencher - contains sugar, natural flavor and blue 1
  8. Organic Thirst Quencher -  contains organic cane sugar and organic natural flavor (both of which are vegan) citric acid, sea salt, sodium citrate and potassium chloride

For a vegan, Gatorade Zero and Gatorade made with organic sugar seems like a safe option, but let’s take a closer look at the kinds of sweeteners used in Gatorade.

3 Problematic Ingredients

Sugar and a bottle of a sports drink

1. Sugar

The production process of table sugar sometimes involves animal bone char.

Although the final product itself doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients, animal bone char is used in the filtration processes as a whitening agent that makes refined sugar snow-white.

Yes, that’s the awful truth - charred and powdered cattle bones are often, but not always, involved in the production of this everyday product.

So, is sugar in Gatorade vegan? Well, it depends on the type of flavor you choose. Some of the varieties are sugar-free while others only contain organic cane sugar.

It’s often hard to tell where exactly companies get their sugar from, but the safest bet is to stick to organic sugar.

Only the refined variety of cane sugar is typically non-vegan. The other varieties of cane sugar (organic, unrefined, natural or raw) are vegan friendly [1]

If we assume that some Gatorade varieties contain vegan-friendly sweeteners, many vegans would still have a problem with the use of natural flavors.

2. Natural Flavors

Different flavors of a known sports drink brand

There is hardly anything more satisfying than gulping down a bottle of cold, energy-packed Gatorade after a workout.

But have you ever wondered where all those refreshing flavors come from?

Contrary to what many people think, so-called ‘’natural flavors’’ in sports drinks may come from different sources, not only from plants.

Some of the most common sources include:

  • Fruit or fruit juice
  • Vegetables or vegetable juice
  • Spices
  • Edible yeast, herbs, bark, buds, root leaves or plant material
  • Meat, poultry or seafood
  • Dairy products, including fermented products
  • Eggs

And just like with the use of bone char in sugar production, it’s almost impossible to know the exact origin of a natural flavor, unless it’s clearly specified on the product label - which is the case with Gatorade sports drink.

This is why some vegans chose to skip on natural flavors altogether, while for others, this is just a minor issue.

3. Artificial Colors

A collection of two different flavors of a sports drink

This is another potential deal-breaker for vegans. Some colors are directly derived from animals (like carmine), but most are not. Still, the majority gets tested on animals.

Gatorade sports drink varieties include the following artificial colors:

  • R40- unlike some other red food dyes, R40 is not derived from insects, making it vegan
  • Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 - these are synthetically made food colors that are not based on animal products
  • Blue 1 - this synthetically-made blue dye is commonly found in candies, soft drinks and ice cream, and it’s not animal-derived
  • Caramel color - this is usually derived from corn, making it vegan-friendly

Although we could say that Gatorade is vegan, just by looking at the origins of dyes used, let’s not forget that most of these ingredients need to be tested on animals before they reach the consumers.

However, despite the presence of ingredients like sugar, natural flavors, and artificial dyes, many vegans will still consider Gatorade vegan sports drink.

On the other hand, some other Gatorade products like protein powders, protein bars and shakes, directly involve animal products, such as whey, which is clearly indicated on the label.

Are Sports Drinks Healthy?

Different kinds sports drink brands in line

Undoubtedly, sports drinks, including Gatorade, can be beneficial in certain situations, especially when you need a reboot and extra-hydration.

However, choosing the right sports drink goes a long way.

Whether they are non-vegan or vegan, sports drinks can be loaded with sugar, so going for G2 low sugar Gatorade, for example, can be a healthier option.

Thanks to its high content of electrolytes, Gatorade can be a quick and handy hangover remedy.

It can also help prevent water loss when exercising and after prolonged exposure to heat.

But, like with most foods and drinks, if you stick to moderate consumption, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about your health.

Should You Add Gatorade to Your Diet?

You might be tempted to call Gatorade vegan just because of the absence of any obvious animal ingredients.

However, most of its versions contain sugar, natural flavors, and some food dyes that may not sit well with all vegans.

If you are concerned about the use of bone char, you can always opt for Organic Gatorade varieties.

On the other hand, stressing about the trace amounts of artificial flavorings in your otherwise vegan sports drink can make veganism seem like an unattainable lifestyle.

So, for a laid-back vegan, Gatorade would be a safe way to restore electrolytes and reboot after a gym session.

Remember that your vegan diet alone helps save thousands of animals per year, and even if you grab a sports drink here and there, it will not make a huge difference.

Are you a Gatorade fan? If you are, what’s your Gatorade flavor of choice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://www.peta.org/living/food/is-sugar-vegan/

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