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The Interesting History of the First and Top Selling Sports Drink

In today’s society, it is hard to imagine a time when people couldn’t go to the store to buy a bottle of water or sports drink. Sports drinks, in particular, have an interesting history, especially the one that started the whole commercial marketing craze.

Incredibly, before 1965, it was widely believed that people who sweated a great deal should not drink water after hard exercise.

It was known that when people sweat, they lose a great deal of water. However, it was thought that if a person sweated a great deal, they needed to cool down before drinking liquids. It was believed that doing otherwise could cause a person to cramp up and get nauseous.

Besides the dehydration, though, it was noted that American football players often lost as much as 15 pounds or more during hard practices and football games. The question was asked by Dwayne Douglas, an assistant coach for the University of Florida football team, “Why are the players losing so much weight, even though they don’t feel the need to urinate?”

As it happened, one of the people he asked this question to was Robert Cade, the kidney disease specialist at the University of Florida.

Although the answer is obvious from the above, at the time it was a mystery. Still, it didn’t take Dr. Cade long to come up with the answer. The athletes were sweating so much that there was nothing left to urinate. The weight-loss was from sweating.

Cade began to think about it more deeply and he enlisted the help of other medical researchers, Jim Free, Dana Shires, and A.M. de Quesada. It occurred to them that besides losing weight and water, the athletes were also losing a great deal of strength, energy, and endurance during the heavy exercises and through the course of games.

They pondered if there was a relation between this and sweating. They suspected that there was a direct connection and since the men worked in the electrolyte division at U of F, that the connection had to do with electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium.

They needed to test their theory, so they went to the U of F head coach Ray Graves and asked if they could use some football players as test subjects. After explaining their reasoning, Coach Graves agreed to the tests and a number of football players agreed to be tested.

All of the players, who’d been healthy and normal before a workout, had electrolyte levels that were totally out of balance afterward. They also had low blood sugar levels and the total volume of blood in their bodies was below normal.

The scientists came up with a simple solution; drink water to which mineral salts and sugar had been added to keep their electrolytes and blood sugar levels up. Nobody really cared for the taste of the stuff until Dr. Cade’s wife suggested that they add lemon juice to the concoction for flavor.

The drink was named after the U of F football team, the Gators, and was called Gatorade. On-field tests confirmed that it worked, too, extremely well. The test subjects were not only kept healthier, their strength, stamina, endurance, and energy all increased.

It was a tremendous success and Gatorade became the first sports drink that addressed the loss of electrolytes. It was first marketed in 1967. It became a huge product success. Many other companies got into the act after that time.

That is how Gatorade and the rest of the sports drinks came into being. Remember, that was only a bit more than 40 years ago.

  • Question of

    Do you ever drink Gatorade?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve tried it but I don’t like it
    • It isn’t available where I live
  • Question of

    Did you know where sports drinks originated before reading this?

    • Yes
    • No


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Written by Rex Trulove