Many summer athletes ward off dehydration and carbohydrate loss by chugging these typically brightly-colored beverages.
As recently as the early 1960s, coaches typically advised their athletes to ignore thirst. But a 1965 study conducted by a group of scientists at the University of Florida changed everything: The researchers discovered that players on the school’s football team, the “Gators,” were suffering from heat exhaustion and suboptimal performance because of dehydration and a loss of electrolytes and carbohydrates from exercise. As a result, the scientists formulated a sugar-salt replacement beverage—eventually dubbed Gatorade—and administered it to the team, which went on to win the Orange Bowl in 1966.
Fluid replacement sports drinks have since grown to be at least a $3.5 billion market in the U.S., according to Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources. But they are still “essentially water, sugar, salt, and some flavoring and coloring,” says Edward F. Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas, Austin. It’s the relative concentration of these components that sports scientists have spent decades perfecting.
The salt and water help replace those same components lost in sweat, and the sugar gives athletes an energy boost. Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume via osmosis, and decreased blood flow to the muscles and skin in turn leads to fatigue and impairs the body’s ability to dissipate heat. Carbohydrate, which is stored as glycogen in muscles, is burned during exercise, also causing fatigue.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society