The Genesis of Gatorade

Despite the success of the Gators program, football players at the University of Florida had long had problems competing in the hot, swampy conditions of Gainesville. During the 1965 college football season, Ray Graves and the Gators coaching staff noticed that the players weren't going to the bathroom during halftime, and started to put two and two together. A series of tests by UF doctors determined that players were suffering from dehydration, and nephrologist Dr. Robert Cade and his team set about to solve the problem. The result was a collection of electrolytes and simple sugars in a special formula designed to mimic the concentrations in bodily fluids. The group added cyclamate and lemon juice to sweeten and flavor the drink so that athletes would drink it. Gatorade was born.

The coaching profession being as tightly knitted as it is, Graves eventually got in touch with the legendary Hank Stram and sent the Kansas City Chiefs several cases of Gatorade. That year the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV over the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings. In 1967 the product went national after a licensing deal was struck with produce company Stokely-Van Camp. After a number of lawsuits regarding ownership of the beverage, a deal was struck to provide the University of Florida with royalties which are put into a trust fund.

Gatorade in the SportsCenter Era

For almost twenty years, Gatorade Thirst Quencher (which is the official name of the product most commonly called Gatorade, both of which will be used interchangably herein) was available in Lemon-Lime and Orange flavors only. 1983 marked the addition of the Fruit Punch flavor as the company was acquired by Quaker Oats, who began to push Gatorade harder towards consumers. With the orange lightning-bolt logo somewhere in the background of every major sporting event, the company's "Gatorade is thirst aid" campaign brought about modest commercial success. But even the showering of Bill Parcells after the Giants victory in Super Bowl XXI (generally accepted as the first ever Gatorade bath) didn't raise Gatorade's popularity to great heights - it took a bald guy named Michael Jordan to do that.

In 1991, right about the time that M.J. was winning the first of six NBA championships and becoming the most recognizable face on the planet, Gatorade signed His Airness to promote the company through the now legendary "Be Like Mike" campaign. The success of the campaign, and the explosion of the business of sports worldwide helped push Gatorade into new markets like China and the Phillipines, and sales skyrocketed. In recent years the company has introduced several new Thirst Quencher lines (Frost, Fierce, And Ice, for example) and other products such as nutrition bars and shakes, and Propel Fitness Water. The company continues to get top athletes like Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm, and Yao Ming to promote its products, and controls between eighty and ninety percent of the sports drink market, generating more than $1.5 billion annually. It is now distributed by the Gatorade Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo.

What's in Gatorade?

Gatorade is essentially flavored sweat with added sugar. The product is mainly water, with both glucose and sucrose-fructose syrup added (these will always be the first three ingredients regardless of which flavor you pick up). Your Gatorade will also contain salt, sodium citrate, and monopotassium phosphate for electrolytes, citric acid to improve flavor, and a number of ingredients for coloring and flavoring. The commonality of ingredients between flavors of Gatorade have led some people to argue that "all Gatorade flavors taste the same." While all Gatorade flavors taste similar, they do not taste the same, and anyone with a discerning palate can determine the differences between the flavors.

Every 8 oz. serving of Gatorade Gatorade Thirst Quencher contains 50 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, no fat, and no protein.

The Availability of Gatorade

Gatorade is available almost everywhere in the civilized world in several different forms. As mentioned above, the All*Stars line is available only in 12 ounce bottles. But the other flavors of Gatorade are available in 20, 32, and 64 fluid ounce bottles. There are also drink boxes, a one gallon jug, and the patented E.D.G.E. bottle (the Ergonomically Designed Gatorade Experience), introduced by an ergonomic design company in 1998. Some flavors of Gatorade (most commonly the Originals) are available in powdered form as well.

Flavors and Flavor Lines

The "traditional" Gatorade Thirst Quencher flavors are Lemon-Lime, Orange, and Fruit Punch. Gatorade calls this line "Original", and has added Citrus Cooler, Strawberry Kiwi, Cool Blue, and Berry Citrus to the line. There are six-and-a-half other Gatorade lines sold in the United States.

Fierce is designed to be the most flavor intensive, and features Strawberry, Melon, Berry, and Grape. "It's a taste that's as intense as you are," boasts Gatorade.

Frost is comprised of what Gatorade calls "flavor systems", the combination of multiple fruit flavors. As such, Gatorade Frosts do not have fruity names... they are Glacier Freeze, Riptide Rush, and Cascade Crash. It's not immediately clear which fruit combinations these are supposed to taste like, although Riptide Rush has a definite grape flavor to it. I've been told that Cascade Crash is blueberry-cranberry, but I'm not sure how this is possible.

Ice is the Crystal Pepsi of Gatorade product lines. Introduced in 2002, Ice is marketed as a lighter flavored Gatorade, and comes in Strawberry, Lime, Orange, and Watermelon. All of the flavors are clear in color. Ice was recently rebranded as Rain and the flavor selections altered.

Xtremo is "specially created for Latino athletes, but its great taste and proven performance can be enjoyed by all". Originally available in Mango, Citrico, and Tropico, the flavors are now known as "Mango Electrico", "Citrico Vibrante", and "Tropical Intenso". Nutrition information on Gatorade Xtremo is available in both English and Spanish.

X-Factor is the latest Gatorade line, and is simply a combination of existing flavors. X-Factor is available in Lemon-Lime/Strawberry, Orange/Tropical Fruit, and Fruit Punch/Berry.

Lemonade was introduced in 2005, along with Raspberry Lemonade.

The final quasi-line of Gatorade is their All*Stars line, available only in 12 ounce bottles. Tailored towards kids, All*Stars are available in Berry, Strawberry, Ice Punch, and Pink Lemonade.

There are also a number of flavors which are either discontinued, limited in availability, regionally specific, or simply very hard to find. For example, Blueberry is available in Colombia, and in Brazil one can acquire a Pineapple Gatorade. You can get Rainbow in Russia and in Australia, exciting-sounding flavors like Antarctic Freeze and Wild Water Rush await. Folks heading to the Olympics in Greece this year can try Green Apple, Red Orange, and Pink Grapefruit. Some flavors that died out in the U.S., like Alpine Snow and Starfruit are still available in other countries. In other words, your selection may vary. As far as I can tell, only Midnight Thunder has been discontinued.

So which Gatorade flavors are the best? Obviously, it's subjective, but the darker flavors tend to be more popular. Cascade Crash is often cited as a favorite, while Fierce Melon is generally recognized as the worst of the current flavors (although the now defunct blackberry-flavored Midnight Thunder would vie for that honor). Having tried every U.S. flavor of Gatorade (including Midnight Thunder, Alpine Snow, High Tide, and Starfruit), my ranking would include Original Orange, Fierce Grape, Cascade Crash, Riptide Rush, Mango Electrico, and Fruit Punch/Berry X-Factor.

Rival Sports Drinks

In recent years, Gatorade has seen a number of challengers such as AllSport and the Powerade try to cut into its market share. Backed by the Coca-Cola Company, Powerade has been the most successful. My personal opinion is that Powerade and AllSport are complete shit, but I've been told to avoid highly subjective writeups. Gatorade was developed not by a marketing group and some taste testers, but by 35 years of scientific research into nutrition, diet, and biochemistry. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute was founded in 1998 in Barrington, Illinois for the purpose of researching sports nutrition and exercise science. The folks at Gatorade didn't just throw the product wantonly onto supermarket shelves to make a profit. Competitors usually have a lower sodium and higher sugar content. Some of the other lesser known brands of sports drinks are carbonated (which hinders consumption) or contain caffeine (which is a diuretic).

Why Not Just Water?

Now Coach Kline only told Bobby Boucher that Gatorade quenched thirst better than water to get him all fired up. But the truth is, the whole reason behind Gatorade's invention was because water wasn't enough. Scientifically, Gatorade (or any liquid with electrolytes in it, like, say, pickle juice) is much better for rehydration than water is. Unless you have Alaskan glacier water blessed by an Eskimo medicine man... in which case, you might want to go with that instead.

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