If you participated in any sport as a kid, are involved in them now or take part in more vigorous exercise there is no way you escaped the influences of Gatorade. I just recently finished reading the book First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon by Darren Rovell.
It is a short, to-the-point book about the history of Gatorade including its creation and marketing throughout the years. My husband read it first and knowing my conflicting views of the product encouraged me to read it.
I don’t mean conflicting to be negative. I’ve always felt the drink had its purpose, however, in many of the publications I’ve written, especially, those about physical activity in youth, I’ve felt the need to identify just when it is necessary and when it isn’t. For example, I, and many other nutrition professionals I know, feel that for exercise less than one hour water is sufficient to rehydrate the body. For exercise lasting more than an hour a drink, such as Gatorade, that replenishes and restores electrolyte balance can be beneficial.
The book provides an eye opening account of the marketing of the product. While certain characteristics are necessary for promoting and selling a drink, Gatorade has remained relatively true to their original purpose, although things have changed and progressed throughout the years. According to the book, it is important to keep the drink only in the sports arena and not open it up as a casual beverage such as a soft drink or fruit drink. I personally find this pretty respectable considering how they may be able to increase sales by promoting the drink to the general public in addition to athletes and exercisers.
Upon finishing the book my husband asked me right away what I now thought of Gatorade. He drinks it during his long runs, especially in the intense heat we experience in Brazil. He knows my concern with processed, fake foods and how I’m trying to eliminate packaged goods from my diet. My response has remained the same – Gatorade serves a purpose in the exercise and athletic world.
My main concern, which was addressed in the book, is with the calories. I’m talking about the average exerciser who puts in a 30 minute session a few days a week and wishes to lose weight. Drinking back your calories isn’t beneficial in this type of situation. However, when you are working up a sweat through hours of training, the few calories the drink adds isn’t going to matter much. Again, it has its purpose.
I think this book is a good read for anyone who is an avid exerciser or athlete. The book provides the positive details of the brand, but also covers concerns of critics. I am big believer in learning more about what we put into our bodies and this book is a good resource for doing just that.
If you’ve read the book or have an opinion about sports drinks, I’d love to hear about it.
Update: Okay, I knew I had read this somewhere and Andrea brought it up in the comments. Liquid Gatorade in the US now contains HFCS. I searched for this post by a Life Less Sweet, but couldn’t find it when I was doing my research for this post. There is no HFCS in what we buy in Brazil and the powdered does not contain it. I’m definitely not going to promote something with HFCS (not that I’m promoting the drink at all), but if you are going to drink it go for the powdered….or buy it in another country. Just kidding.
(Cross-posted at Charity Mile)