Outside magazine, June 1996
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.
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.