Whether you drink them for the taste or the function, sports drinks can play a major part in your gluten-free life. Ensuring that the drinks you rely on for hydration are gluten-free can prevent an allergic reaction while keeping you hydrated and healthy.
Popular sports drinks that have no gluten-containing ingredients (with or without gluten-free labeling) include:
- Vitamin Water
- Body Armor
In this article, we explain why most sports drinks can be considered gluten-free (even if they do not put in the effort to confirm on their label). We also explore which brands are considered safe, which flavors you can count on, and what drinks (other than water) you should look to for gluten-free hydration.
Sports Drinks and Gluten
Before explaining why sports drinks are highly unlikely to involve gluten-containing grains, let’s set the base work for what a sports drink is.
For the purpose of this article, as well as generally as a topic, a sports drink is used to replenish what you lose during strenuous exercise. This includes:
- Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium)
These are not protein shakes or supplements, which often rely on gluten-containing ingredients such as whey.
With hydration and replenishment as their main goal, grains would only get in the way of the process. The drink would also have a completely different taste, failing to provide the freshness you want after exercise.
Common Sports Drink Ingredients Explained
A simple ingredient list for sports drinks looks like:
The carbohydrates usually come in the form of sugar, such as glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, or sucrose. The type of sweetener and the amount of electrolytes included vary depending on the sports drink, and they offer varying degrees of hydration and absorption.
Even ingredients used for flavoring, coloring, and preservation should be safe for a gluten-free diet. These have less to do with the performance of the sports drink and more to do with how it tastes and remains shelf stable.
Because none of these ingredients are suspect, you need to inspect the label for any wheat allergy or cross-contamination warnings.
Certified Gluten-Free vs. No Gluten-Containing Ingredients
While most sports drinks are safe for a gluten-free diet, you will notice different levels of reassurance on their labels.
Certified gluten-free sports drinks will explicitly state this on their label. As a rule, before a manufacturer can put this on their label, they need to provide the product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This is considered the lowest rate that can be reliably detected in food, and most people with a gluten intolerance can handle it at this level.
There are more stringent labels that you may see, such as the Certified Gluten Free mark from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). These products must have 10 ppm or less to use the mark, making them much stricter than the FDA standards.
Most sports drinks do not bother with going through this testing because their products obviously do not use gluten-containing ingredients and it would not affect their practices.They may still release statements to clarify that the hydration drinks do not include gluten-containing ingredients, but without testing there is no official verdict.
Some sports drinks are made in facilities that also process wheat, and they will explain this on the label. This can be tricky, as many facilities now flush their lines between productions. You want to see a facility that is GMP certified before trusting this claim.
Any labels that explicitly warn of wheat or gluten should be avoided.
Read More >> Is Simply Lemonade Gluten Free?
Is Powerade Gluten-Free?
Powerade, a sports hydration drink from the Coca-Cola Company, should not contain any gluten in any of its flavors. This includes both the original and Powerade Zero ION4 flavors such as:
- Fruit Punch
- Strawberry Lemonade
- Mountain Berry Blast
- White Cherry
- Tropical Mango
- Mixed Berry
Is Gatorade Gluten-Free?
Gatorade sports drinks and supplements from PepsiCo are considered gluten-free. Labels list only water, sugar, salt, flavorings, colorings, and preservatives that do not contain gluten. While the drinks are not labeled gluten-free, the manufacturer has explained this in public format.
This includes sports drinks in lines such as Thirst Quencher, G Zero, G2, Organic Thirst Quencher, and Gatorade Juiced. It covers all of your favorite flavors, such as:
- Fierce Strawberry
- Strawberry Raspberry
- Cool Blue
- Fierce Grape
- Citrus Cooler
- Fruit Punch
- Frost Glacier Cherry
- Frost Tropical Mango
- Tropical Cooler
- Fierce Fruit Punch+Berry
- Frost Arctic Blitz
- Frost Glacier Freeze
- Fierce Blue Cherry
- Lime Cucumber
- Frost Icy Charge
- Strawberry Watermelon
There is no reason to suspect that future flavors will use gluten-containing ingredients.
Not All Gatorade Products are Gluten-Free
Gatorade has branched out in recent years to offer many energy and protein products, and they no longer exist only in the bubble of sports hydration drinks. While most of these drinks and snacks remain gluten-free, there are a few exceptions to note.
Gatorade Recover Whey Protein Bars are not safe for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. This includes flavors such as:
- Chocolate Chip
- Cookies and Cream
- Peanut Butter Chocolate
- Chocolate Pretzel
- Mint Chocolate Crunch
- Chocolate Caramel
Any future Gatorade Whey Protein products are unlikely to be gluten-free.
Is Vitamin Water Gluten-Free?
Vitamin Water, another subsidiary of the Coca Cola Company, offers several exciting gluten-free flavors to keep you hydrated. This includes:
- xxx (Triple antioxidants) (Acai Blueberry Pomegranate)
- Mega c (Vitamin C) (Dragonfruit)
- Essential (Calcium) (Orange)
- Energy (Caffeine) (Tropical Citrus)
- Multi-V (A + Zinc) (Lemonade)
- Restore (Electrolytes) (Fruit Punch)
- Focus (Vitamin A) (Kiwi Strawberry)
- Gut-C (Fibre + apple cider vinegar) (Watermelon Peach)
- Recover-E (Electrolytes from sea salt) (Blueberry Strawberry)
- Serenit-E (l-theanine + chamomile extract + selenium) (Melon Hibiscus)
- Rise (Zero Sugar Calcium) (Orange)
- Xoxox (Zero Sugar triple antioxidants) (Acai Blueberry Pomegranate)
- Squeezed (Zero Sugar A + Zinc) (Lemonade)
Is Body Armor Sports Drink Gluten-Free?
All flavors of Body Armor, Body Armor Lyte, Body Armor Edge, and Body Armor Sport Water Sports Drinks are gluten-free. They rely on coconut water to provide the hydration and replenishment you need for tastes such as:
- Strawberry Grape
- Blue Raspberry
- Gold Berry
- Strawberry Banana
- Orange Mango
- Fruit Punch
- Tropical Punch
- Blackout Berry
- Watermelon Strawberry
- Pineapple Coconut
- Berry Lemonade
- Mixed Berry
Their drinks are also certified kosher, vegan, and soy-free.
Is Accelerade Gluten-Free?
While less common than other sports drink options, Accelerade has a patented 4:1 ratio between carbs and protein that offers a novel approach to sports hydration. This drink from Pacific Health Labs, as well as their Endurox products, are completely gluten-free.
This includes all variations, including:
- Accel Gels
- 2nd Surge Gels
- Body Glove Surge Gels
- Accelerade powder
- Accelerade Hydro
- Endurox R4
The products are made in a facility that processes wheat, but it is GMP certified and flushes all lines in between production.
Is Propel Water Gluten-Free?
Propel Water is another electrolyte replacement product from PepsiCo that has a complete line of gluten-free flavors. This includes:
- Kiwi Strawberry
- Mandarin Orange
- Strawberry Lemonade
- Black Cherry
Propel Powder packets are also gluten-free.
Is Recharge Gluten-Free?
Recharge Juice Beverages are a gluten-free sports drink from R. W. Knudsen Family, a subsidiary of The J.M. Smucker Company. As the company is better known for their 100% organic fruit juices, these hydration drinks are all natural and contain simple flavors such as:
- Mixed Berry
- Organic Lemon
There is no official testing for gluten on Recharge drinks, but the company responds to email inquiries with a statement that they do not contain ingredients derived from gluten.
Other Gluten-Free Sports Drinks
Less popular gluten-free sports drink brands include:
- Nooma Organic Electrolyte Sports Drinks
There are also several gluten-free sports energy drinks that offer more benefits on top of hydration, but these deviate greatly from the purpose of sports hydration drinks.
Read More >> Is Tonic Water Gluten Free?
Simple Gluten-Free Sports Drinks
If you want to simplify your search for gluten-free sports drinks, consider coconut water. These drinks are highly unlikely to contain any gluten ingredients.
Trustworthy brands include:
- Coco Libre
- Vita Coco
Coconut water usually has fewer calories and less sodium. These drinks also offer more potassium for replenishment and focus on natural flavors from other juices. With less processing and ingredients involved, it’s easier to trust gluten-free promises from these companies.
Coconut water may not cut it with more intense workouts, but sports drinks that mimic the simplicity and sourcing (such as Body Armor) can provide replenishment with less stress.
Sports drinks are unlikely to have any gluten-containing ingredients, and even those with trace amounts aren’t enough to trigger a reaction. The lack of certified gluten-free labeling is a concern of many, but most sports drink companies have public statements regarding the safety of their drinks for those with gluten-intolerances.
It is still important to proceed with caution and examine labels thoroughly. Don’t give new drinks all of your trust, but you shouldn’t need to worry much when trying to stay hydrated. Odds are that you will find a brand and flavor that tastes great and wins you over, and you can move on staying happy, healthy, and hydrated without worry.