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Gatorade - Official Science

See official Gatorade website:


Gatorade - Alternative View

Ultimate in hydration science or flavored sugar-water with a few electrolytes? America's No. 1 Choice by "quench-thirst drink maker" developed by Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) or "Gatorburf"? It's a personal choice. But let us extend this discussion.

While modern science and marketing of sport nutrition has strongly embraced hydration products, forcing athletes into purchasing pursuits by constantly developing new formulations, throwing at us BCAA's, complex carbohydrates, minerals, zany flavors, and fast-absorption, there exist one product, unchanged but for its flavors and marketing, Gatorade.

Purely from the hydration science point, Gatorade is far behind in the current race between race and/or recovery sport drinks. It lacks the mineral/electrolyte content to be a race drink, and does not have the proper amounts/proportion of the carbs and proteins to qualify for recovery drink. Deservingly, Gatorade tends to be looked down upon by the endurance athletes.

After all, anyone who likes Gatorade could save money by making their own version. A home-made Gatorade can be made as follows: mix roughly 93.3% tapwater (7 fluid oz), 3 tablespoons sugar (sucrose/table sugar), 1/16 teaspoon of salt stirred into a preparation of 1 fluid oz. lemon-flavored citrus juice. Voila, you a Gator maker.

To review the hard science read on. Gatorade's electrolyte profile is 12 mg. sodium to 3 mg. potasssium to 2 mg. phosphorus with micro amounts of magnesium and iron, without which the simple sugar-ingredient osmolality would be so high, it would fail crossing the gastric lining without drawing fluids from the body. Calorically, it produces 60.24 kilocalories of 15.20 grams carbohydrates, 94% of which is simple sugar, 14.32 simple sugar grams in each 8 fluid ounces. As an endurance athlete exercising at an aerobic pace rate, you spend 600 to 900 calories per hour, but your liver can replenish only 240 calories back into the energy cycle from the fuels you consume to delay premature fatigue or the bonk. The faster the carbohydrates are absorbed, the faster the liver can reprocess them, meaning that 32 fluid ounces of Gatorade are minimally required to replenish some of the calories spent. As you know, 32 fluid ounces per hour is quite often implicated in dilutional hyponatremia, not to mention the inconvinience and heavy liquid weight of such high fluid intake.

Any research that has used a 6% solution of carbs is specifically formulating a high percentage of short-chain simple sugars which top out body fluid osmolar rates pushing 300 mOsm limit in a 6% solution. Even with their excellent electrolyte profile, if they raise the solution above 6%, gastric absorption will be delayed more than it currently is with a pittance of caloric absorption. To explain - more science:


Osmolality is osmotic concentration characteristic of a solution's ionic dissolved substances per unit of solvent. If the osmolality of the solution you are drinking deviates from body fluid levels of 280-303 mOsm (an osmolality unit measure), it will be delayed from absorption until gastric organs can either add more fluid or the electrolytes necessary to create osmolality within body fluid or blood serum reach a proper level.

The following table represents the osmotic solution values in mOsm-units:

Water 10-20
Sweat 170-220
Gastric Fluids 280-303
Blood Serum 300
Gatorade** 290-303
Sustained Energy* 280-290
Pepsi-Cola 568
Coca-Cola 650
Fruit Juice 690
*Hammer Nutrition's product. Approximate @ 20% solution by product weight to fluid weight.
**Approximate @ 6% solution by product weight to fluid weight.

In 8 ounces of a 6% Gatorade solution a yield of 60 carb calories, of which 94% are from simple sugar, the remaining 6% come from complex or other carbohydrates is absorbed at body fluid osmolality. An 8-ounce serving of Sustained Energy in a 20% solution weight creates 170+ caloric yield absorption rate representing substantially more calories entering systemically with less insulin hormonal rebound than simple-sugar Gatorade.

High dextrose equivalent (DE) short-chain length sugars take twice as long to empty from gastric areas as compared to long-chain lower-DE carbohydrates. A maltodextrin with a DE under 20 may be mixed in a 20% solution (by unit weight to water) and still fall into the same 280-303 mOsm osmolality as body fluids. Simple sugars such as dextrose, fructose, or sucrose may be mixed at ranges of only 5-8% solution before body fluid osmolality levels (280-303 mOsm) are reached. When a fluid solution of carbohydrates equals body fluid osmolality, they are said to be Iso-Osmotic. An Iso-Osmotic solution of glucose or fructose delivers only 0.2 calories per milliliter, sucrose delivers 0.4 cal/ml, while an Iso-Osmotic solution maltodextrin long-chain carbohydrates will deliver from 0.9 cal/ml to 1.2 cal/ml or 3 to 6 times more calories per unit of solution.

The optimal fuel-of-choice is long-chain, low dextrose-equivalent carbohydrates like those found in Sustained Energy. No fuel can replenish muscle glycogen stores at the same or better rate than it is spent during exercise. The fittest athletes manage to store 60-90 minutes worth of muscle glycogen stores in the working muscles or liver. Mixing a 10-20% solution of Sustained Energy, taken at the rate of 300 minimum calories to 400 maximal calorie doses will support endurance efforts in the 75% to 85% VO2 Max ranges delaying exercise-induced bonking remarkably and individually.

The human endurance model responds remarkably better to a long-chain glucose polymer than a short-chain simple sugar as determined by reliable scientists on unaffiliated studies. If Gatorade (GSSI) ever comes to a conclusion to stop using only simple sugars in an otherwise satisfactory electrolyte profile, they would make a much better product. But corporate pressures to hold production costs down (as simple sugars are significantly cheaper than their better alternatives), and recreation athlete's purchasing habits and ideas on sport hydration remains the same (who wants to study carbohydrate osmolar solute absorption mechanics in transit?), Gatorade is here to stay and to rule.

This was Science, and now for a reality of our lives. Imagine another training day, it's hot and you were in a saddle for hours. You are going back now, maybe another hour or two left, but your are thursty. You stop at the store to refuel: you get water, and for a little sugar/salt/flavor craving you get what? Cytomax, Buz-RN, Endurox? None of the above, there will be nothing in the store but water, soda, beer, and Gatorade. So you will get Gatorade! It will be cold, it will cheap, and it will be there! And most of us will be greatful to drink it.

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