How are you feeling today? A little groggy? Nauseous? Have you promised yourself that you’ll never drink again? If that sounds familiar, then you’re probably here hunting for hangover cures. Two popular folk remedies that pretend to have some scientific backing are Pedialyte and Gatorade. Let’s see if they actually work.
While just about everyone who has ever had a sip of alcohol has their own hangover cure, from “hair of the dog” to greasy foods, few recommendations are as common as chugging Gatorade or Pedialyte. The idea is simple: if drinking dehydrates you, then drinking a beverage designed to counter dehydration should make you feel better. Let’s take a quick look at both options:
- Gatorade: Gatorade is a sports drink meant to combat dehydration better than water. It supposedly does this better than regular old water by packing in potassium and sodium, which are both electrolytes. Electrolytes help you hydrate quickly by telling your kidneys not to pee so much. Since it’s a sports drink, Gatorade also has carbohydrates, sugars, and added calories added in to help with endurance.
- Pedialyte: Pedialyte was created to help dehydrated children recover from illness. The method of rehydration is similar to Gatorade. Pedialyte has lots of sodium and potassium, but less calories and less sugar than Gatorade. Celebrity endorsements for Pedialyte from both Miley Cyrus and Pharrell (and an appearance on True Detective) helped push it into the public consciousness as a hangover cure.
Let’s take a closer look at both options to see if either can help you get over that pounding headache.
Both Pack Electrolytes, but That Doesn’t Mean They “Cure” Hangovers
While we’re still not exactly certain what about alcohol causes hangovers specifically, we do know what happens in your body after the fact. After a night of drinking, the body releases acetaldehyde and cytokines, two causes for nausea or headaches. Your liver also gets overworked in an attempt to process all that alcohol. Dehydration is another effect of a hangover, which happens because alcohol is a diuretic and makes you pee more.
Gatorade and Pedialyte are supposedly a good cure for the dehydration portion of your hangover because they’re packed with electrolytes. Electrolytes help you retain more water and pee less, which is good for fast rehydration. Before we get there, let’s look at the nutrition numbers on both Gatorade and Pedialyte:
- A 32oz bottle of Gatorade has 440mg of sodium and 140mg of Potassium, but also packs in around 200 calories and 56g of carbohydrates.
- The 33.8oz container of Pedialyte has 1,012mg of Sodium and 768mg of Potassium. It has 100 calories and 24g of carbohydrates.
In theory, all these electrolytes should help with the headache part of your hangover, and since Pedialyte has more electrolytes, it sounds like better option. Dehydration is just one part of your hangover though, so curing that won’t “cure” your hangover as a whole. To that point, The Atlantic spoke with kidney doctor and medical school professor Stanley Goldfarb and Amy Hess-Fischl, nutrition specialist at the University of Chicago:
The root of hangovers, Goldfarb explains, isn’t that the body lacks water or electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, or magnesium after a night out. Instead, it’s just that the chemicals produced when the body breaks down alcohol are toxic and pain-inducing. The surest hangover cure, then, is something that the market doesn’t generally prefer: patience. (While Goldfarb says dehydration doesn’t play much of a role in determining the intensity of a hangover, it can be important to drink fluids if there’s been water loss from diarrhea or vomiting.)
Amy Hess-Fischl…says that before bedtime, drinking fluids does matter when it comes to hangovers, but still, Pedialyte is no better than water. “The Pedialyte itself is truly helping because it is rehydrating,” she says. “But any non-alcoholic decaffeinated beverage will do the same thing.”
Regardless of how big of a role hydration plays in the power of a hangover, we know dehydration causes the brain to contract, and that could be one of the minor causes of your headache. The best counter to that is hydration, which is especially necessary if you’ve spent the night (or morning) throwing up.
There’s at least a theoretical grain of truth in the idea that both Pedialyte and Gatorade provide a slight hydration improvement over regular old water, in which case Pedialyte would theoretically outdo Gatorade.
Gatorade Has Far More Flavor Options and Is Substantially Cheaper
While taste is subjective, there’s no denying that Gatorade wins out in the number of options available. Gatorade has 29 flavors of its “Thirst Quencher” drink. It also has eight low-calorie flavors, and four flavors of a powder mix you can add to water. You can find a 32oz Gatorade at a local convenience or grocery store for $1-$2, or get larger packs, like eight, 20oz bottles, for about $6.
Pedialyte comes in five main flavors: mixed fruit, strawberry, grape, bubble gum, and unflavored, though they all taste like lightly flavored chalk dust. Those same flavors also come in freezer pops and powder packs. One, 33.8oz container of Pedialyte retails for about $5. Pedialyte is also a bit harder to find than Gatorade and you’ll need to venture into a grocery store or pharmacy for a bottle instead of the local convenience store.
Gatorade is the cheaper, easier to find option of the two. Gatorade doesn’t have as many electrolytes per bottle as Pedialyte, but it’s so much cheaper. The number of flavor options means it’s more likely you’ll drink more Gatorade, which is all that matters. If money’s not an issue, just go with whichever you like the taste of more.
The Verdict: Drink Whatever You Can Keep Down (That Isn’t More Booze)
We don’t know if either Gatorade or Pedialyte is better than plain old water. We do know that hydration is one small factor of getting over a hangover, so drinking anything will help, but it won’t “cure” a hangover completely. Plus, water is much much cheaper.
Drink whatever tastes good and whatever you can keep down in your sorry state. Better yet, create a time machine, go back to last night, and drink water in-between each alcoholic drink.