Is Gatorade gluten-free? I’ve never been a fan of sports drinks but when you need electrolytes, Gatorade always sounds good. And one of the most common questions I see in gluten-free forums online is people asking “is Gatorade gluten-free?”.
Sometimes people get it right when they answer this question. But a lot of the time I see a lot of back and forth between people arguing if it’s truly gluten-free or not. So in this blog post, I, a celiac dietitian, am going to get to the bottom of it.
P.s. Need help with label-reading and knowing if products like this are gluten-free? Sign up for my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I show you EXACTLY what you need to look for on a food label to stay celiac-safe in the USA. Stop stressing over grocery shopping in just 4-simple steps with this FREE training!
When talking about gluten-free Gatorade, it’s important we know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.
In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.
Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.
When determining if Gatorade is gluten-free, it’s important to first know what it is. Basically, Gatorade is a sports drink made by Pepsico.
And while most people are referring to the Gatorade Ready-to-Drink (the bottles of premixed Gatorade) when they talk about Gatorade, there are actually a lot more Gatorade products.
Gatorade not only sells Gatorade ready-to-drink but also:
So when we talk about if Gatorade is gluten-free, it’s important to get specific about which Gatorade product you’re checking.
Per the PepsiCo website, most Gatorade products do not contain gluten. This includes Gatorade Ready-to-drink, Gatorade mixes (bulk and sticks), G2 products, Recover Protein Shakes, Prime Energy Chews, and Gatorade Endurance products. However, none of these products have been tested and confirmed to be gluten-free (which is a requirement for using a gluten-free claim on the food label).
Here’s the thing, you don’t need a gluten-free claim for something to be considered gluten-free. If you’re shocked by this, definitely check out my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I break this down in detail.
But to summarize it: in research done on products that appeared to be gluten-free solely based on the ingredients, they found that over 95% of all products met the FDA definition of gluten-free. And the <5% that didn’t contain higher risk ingredients like oats. Again, if you want to learn more about that study and why gluten-free claims aren’t always necessary, check out my TOTALLY free USA Food Label-Reading Class.
So in this case, I would consider Gatorade Ready-to-drink, Gatorade mixes (bulk and sticks), G2 products, Recover Protein Shakes, Prime Energy Chews and Gatorade Endurance products all to be gluten-free.
However, Pepsico does note that there may be a risk of cross-contact with the Recover Whey Protein bars. And they also note that the Prime Nutrition Bars may have ingredients with gluten content. In this case, out of an abundance of caution, I would advise you to avoid these products unless Pepsico says otherwise.
Getting into the weeds here, I already stated Gatorade Ready-to-Drink is gluten-free BUT I think it’s helpful to dissect the food label to help give you an idea on why we’re not worried about these products.
Let’s look at the label of the Gatorade Fruit Punch Sports Drink. There is no gluten-free claim (which would make it automatically safe). This means we need to check for gluten-containing grains (barley, rye, and wheat).
The ingredients of Gatorade Fruit Punch Sports Drink are water, sugar, dextrose, citric acid, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, modified food starch, natural flavor, glycerol ester of rosin, red 40, and caramel color.
I don’t see any obvious signs of wheat, barley, or rye so now we need to check for ingredients that can hide gluten.
Now if you’ve taken my Free USA Food Label-Reading Class, you’d know right off the bat we’re worried about modified food starch and natural flavor. That’s because in that FREE class I tell you exactly what you’re looking for on food labels.
Some people might also be worried about dextrose because it can be derived from wheat, but I explain why this ingredient is safe in this blog post if you’re curious.
Additionally, some people might be worried about Caramel Color, again, this is actually totally safe and you can read more about that here.
So we’re worried about modified food starch and natural flavor because both could hide gluten. However, if we go back to Pepsico’s statement that “None of the ingredients in Gatorade ready-to-drink… are derived from grains or flours that have been linked to gluten sensitivity”, we know that the modified food starch and natural flavors are not derived from gluten containing grains.
Thus, this Gatorade is gluten-free and totally safe to drink.
Now that we know Gatorade is gluten-free, when should you drink it? Gatorade is a great refuel drink for athletes. It’s got electrolytes to replenish your stores after intense workouts and it’s got sugar to help you refuel afterward.
So naturally, if you are working out and expending a lot of energy and losing a lot of electrolytes, Gatorade might help.
Additionally, if you’ve been exposed to gluten and you’re losing a lot of fluids from diarrhea and throwing up, you may also consider Gatorade, as it’s easy to find in stores. However, do note that the sugar in the Gatorade may not be helpful for you as it is for athletes in this case. If you want, you can choose a lower or no sugar version to help you replenish electrolytes but it’s not necessary.
And lastly, you might drink Gatorade on a gluten-free diet because it’s tasty. When balancing a gluten-free diet, it’s important to include things you like and Gatorade can be a delicious part of that.
Now that we know that Gatorade is gluten-free, what about other sports drinks? Of course, using your label-reading skills will always be your best best in checking products for gluten.
It’s always important that even when you read online or if you remember something to be gluten-free, that you’re always checking the label to make sure that’s still the case.
However, if you’re looking for a quick list to commit to memory, below is a list of other gluten-free sports drinks on the market.
Confused or unsure why some of these drinks are on the list. I probably sound like a broken record, but check out my FREE USA Food Label Reading Class to learn how I quickly determine if something is gluten-free.
Last but not least, don’t have gluten-free Gatorade on hand but need a sports drink? They’re actually quite easy to make at home. Just combine 2 tbsp of sugar and ⅛ tsp of salt with 1 and ½ cups of water. Feel free to flavor this with your juice of choice!