Sports drinks contain various levels of fluid, electrolytes, and carbs and are designed to help athletes replace water, electrolytes, and energy to maintain optimum performance. While sports drinks have existed on some level since the 1920s. Gatorade basically created the commercial sports drink industry with its commercial release in 1967.
In this post, we're going to look at what sports drinks actually do, explore the history of Gatorade and learn how it changed the sports world to reach iconic status!
What Do Sports Drinks Do?
Today, there are hundreds of different sports drinks containing all sorts of ingredients. But what exactly is it that sports drinks do?
When you exercise, your body burns energy when contracting your muscles. As a result, you burn calories and lose water and electrolytes (or salts, mostly sodium) when you sweat. If you perform an extended period of physical exertion, you'll need to replace all three.
While some drinks contain additives, like caffeine, the best (like Gatorade) basically act as an effective delivery mechanism for water, salt, and sugar.
Born in the Lab
To understand the sports drink industry, you need to go back to when it began. In the early summer of 1965, University of Florida football coach Dwayne Douglas noticed a serious problem.
His players were losing a ton of weight during games and practices. Unbelievably as much as 18 pounds! To compound the problem, they weren't urinating even though they were drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Many of his players were also suffering from severe heatstroke.
Douglas went to Dr. Robert Cade a kidney specialist and member of the University's School of Medicine. Cade put together a research group that included Drs. Dana Shires, H.James Free, and Alejandro de Quesada to determine the cause of the football player's distress.
They soon determined that the players were losing fluids and electrolytes through their sweat and they were not being replaced, and the carbs their bodies used for energy were not being replenished.
By the time they were ready to test their beverage in early 1966, the Gators had a new coach, Ray Graves. Dr. Cade and his team had concocted a beverage that was basically synthetic sweat. It was a solution made up of water, salt, and sugar. The first time he tasted it, Dr. Cade threw up! While it was effective, it tasted disgusting. Cade's wife suggested adding lemon juice to make it palatable and Gatorade was born!
In 1966, the team began drinking Gatorade during the summer practices, and not only did the weight loss problem get better, but the team also saw a significant drop in the number of players suffering heat exhaustion. Coach Graves credited the drink with his team's 9-2 record and for the first time ever, the Gators victory in the Orange Bowl!
Released to the World!
The word about Gatorade quickly spread outside of the state of Florida. Both Miami of Ohio and the University of Richmond ordered batches of Gatorade for their teams. Orders began coming in from other college football teams from across the country.
In 1967 Stokely-Van Camp, Inc. became Gatorade's distributor. In the summer of 1969 Coach Graves suggested to the Kansas City Chiefs they use Gatorade to combat the effects of the Missouri sun during training camp. The Chiefs were so impressed they kept Gatorade on their sidelines throughout the season, including during their stunning upset of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV!
Today, Gatorade can be found on the sidelines of over 70 Division 1 colleges as the official sports drink of men's and woman's intercollegiate sports. In 1984 Gatorade became the official sports drink of the NFL.
Florida's Iconic Contribution to the World of Sports!
From its humble beginnings in 1965 until today, Gatorade has been setting the standard for sports drinks for over 5 decades! Along with college football and the NFL, today, Gatorade is the official sports drink of the NBA, AVP, and PGA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and numerous other elite athletes, teams, and professional sports organizations.
As the leader in the sports drink sales market with 67% of the market share, Gatorade's annual sales are in the billions. To date, the University of Florida has received more than $100 million in royalties since Gatorade's invention by Dr. Cade in 1965.
Today, Gatorade is one of the most recognized consumer brands in the world. In fact, the Gatorade Shower (also known as the Gatorade Dunk) has become an iconic tradition for the coaches of championship-winning teams across all sports!