May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1996


If it's good for you, it must taste like...
By Dana Sullivan

Maybe it's their neon colors. Maybe it's their placement in the convenience store, next to the beer and across from the charcoal starter. Whatever--for some reason it's not always easy to take sports drinks seriously. But their image can be misleading. "If you're engaged in an aerobic activity for more than 60 minutes," says Kristin Reimers, associate director of the International Center for Sports Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska, "you'll need the immediate carbohydrate boost that these drinks provide." So what do sports drinks have that sodas or fruit juices don't? In two words: just enough. Too high a concentration of carbohydrates can interfere with absorption, so that the drink sits in your stomach. Sports drinks also contain electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium, in amounts worked out to help your body absorb and transport fluids for optimal rehydration. "That's not important for short-term athletic events, where you can still draw on electrolytes acquired during previous meals or snacks," says Reimers, "but if you're out there sweating for more than four hours without eating, you're body needs the additional electrolytes." All the popular sports drinks serve up carbos and electrolytes in desirable amounts, so in the end, the deciding factor is palatability. Here's what our testers had to say about that.

Flavors: Blue Ice, Cherry Slam, Fruit Punch, Grape, Lemon Lime, Orange.
All these drinks have a hint of carbonation that makes them difficult to chug. Diluting them with water makes it easier and tempers the mouth-puckeringly sour Lemon Lime and excessively sweet Grape. All Sport has more potassium than most sports drinks, which helps prevent cramps.

Flavors: Cherry Rush, Citrus Cooler, Cool Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, Grape, Lemon Ice, Lemon Lime, Orange, Strawberry Kiwi, Tropical Burst, Watermelon, Wild Apple.

The most gulpable of the lot. As a rule, not too sweet, except Lemon Ice, which tastes a bit syrupy. Gatorade has twice the sodium of the other sports drinks--great for big-sweat activities--but that's still just 4 percent of the FDA's maximum daily recommended intake.

Flavors: Lemon Lime, Berry Burst, Orange, Grape, Power Punch, Strawberry Kiwi.
Added vitamins and minerals may sound healthy, but Reimers says the amounts in Hy-5 are too small to make them significant. Overall the drinks are a bit syrupy-sweet; Strawberry Kiwi is the best of the lot.

Flavors: Fruit Punch, Grape, Lemon Lime, Mountain Blast, Orange, Tidal Burst.
All the flavors have the right balance of sweet and sour, so they taste good without being overpowering. If tropical flavors aren't to your liking, try Mountain Blast--the closest you'll come to plain water in a sports drink. Don't be put off by "glycerol ester of wood rosin" on the label. It's a natural by-product of trees that keeps the ingredients from separating, so you don't have to shake the bottle before drinking.

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