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Energy Drinks vs. Sports Drinks: What's the difference?

In many cases, the classification of foods and other products is confusing, which means that consumers often have a hard time determining why a substance is labelled a certain way and what that label means about the product itself.

What's the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks?

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) classification system, there isn’t a difference between sports drinks and energy drinks. Instead, beverage companies simply use these names as marketing terms to target sales and attract consumers.

The exact same drink could technically be marketed as a food or as a supplement based on the company’s decision, and unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t review these labelling practices to determine if the correct choice has been made. This is important because the classification of a product as a food or a supplement determines which laws apply to it, and what information companies must provide to consumers.

energy drink cans and sport drink bottles different colors

How can you decide between energy drinks and sports drinks?

Even though the labels might be confusing, research clearly shows that it’s safest to avoid energy products all together. Energy drinks contain high levels of sugar and caffeine (or another stimulant) that are detrimental to hydration and cause adverse health effects, including skin flushing, increased heart rate, or sweating from vitamin overdose.

For more information about the health concerns associated with energy drinks, take a look at this article.

Try your hand at reading an energy drink label.
Click the energy drink bottle below.

Are sports drinks safe?

Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are typically safer than energy drinks, but it’s still important to examine the ingredient list closely. Make sure to review the label for the sugar, carbohydrate, and electrolyte content.

Also, keep in mind that if you’re not exercising for more than an hour, you probably don’t need a sports drink to recover properly. In that case, consider skipping the fancy drinks and have water to rehydrate and chocolate milk for muscle recovery.

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