Gatorade As a Sports Drink

The idea of ingesting something to enhance performance is nothing new. However, being careful of what you put into your body and making sure you have the correct beverage for what your body needs is pretty important. As an athlete, would your benefit more from an energy drink or a sports drink? As a college student under a deadline, which would be better for you? Here is a brief history of the two types of beverages and the benefits of both.

Gatorade as a Sports Drink

Formulated in 1965 by a team of researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Gatorade was one of the first nationally recognized sports energy drinks. Florida Gators head football coach Ray Graves requested the college look into creating a beverage that would re-hydrate the football players while they practiced in the hot Florida weather. Earliest versions of this beverage were made of a mixture of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate and lemon juice.

After the Florida Gators football team won the 1967 Orange Bowl they credited Gatorade with helping them win, causing the athletic community to stand up and take notice. Shortly after, the National Football League entered into a licensing agreement to make Gatorade the official sports drink of the NFL. After introducing Gatorade commercially, the manufacturers began testing new flavors and replacing a banned sweetener.

Gatorade Thirst Quencher was the original commercial Gatorade product, and it only came in lemon-lime or orange flavors for nearly 20 years until fruit punch was introduced in 1983. In 1988, Michael Jordan stated that Citrus Cooler was his favorite Gatorade flavor and thus began a 10-year endorsement deal. Gatorade was entrenched as the leader in sports drinks for serious athletes and those who wanted to emulate serious athletes.

Gatorade has expanded and rebranded numerous times over the years, and they are no longer the only sports drink on the market. With the introduction of energy drinks that offer caffeine and are not target at athletes, there is a whole new line of specialty beverages quickly emerging.

Energy Drinks

In 1997, Red Bull was introduced in the United States. It was one of the first beverages that was sold as a drink that amped up energy. Typically, the energy drink market is geared toward young people, with well over half the consumers under age 35. College students loved the idea of having something help them stay awake and finish classwork. The mixture of sugar and caffeine stimulate the body to alertness and stamina that are an alternative to coffee drinks and sodas.

It soon became a party staple where patrons would use Red Bull as a mix-in with alcohol believing it would give them more energy to be able to party all night. As a legal stimulant with large doses of caffeine, it was a dangerous game to mix it with alcohol which is a depressant. This cocktail is also very dehydrating. At the time it rose to popularity, however, any negative impact it had on a person’s health had not really been truly established yet. Other energy drinks soon joined the market including Rockstar and Monster Energy Drink.

Comparing Energy Drinks to Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are specifically designed to replenish fluids lost during activity, thereby enhancing energy levels and allowing the drinker to maintain their activity levels for longer periods of time. They do not contain caffeine, but do have sugar and electrolytes.

Energy drinks have anywhere from 2-4 or more times the amount of caffeine as a regular soda would have. Added to other ingredients, these energy drinks are touted to increase stamina and boost performance. Athletes could use these to get a little extra out of their performance, but it may not be the healthiest way to get results. Geared more towards the 18-35 age range, students and young professionals use these drinks to boost their evenings out, or to get a jolt of energy first thing in the morning.


Some popular energy drinks have ended up banned by the FDA in the United States. The infamous Four Loko, which was essentially an energy drink mixed with alcohol and came in very large cans, was banned after several people actually died after ingesting many of these beverages in short periods of time. When mixing energy drinks with alcohol numerous issues can present including dehydration and not feeling as intoxicated as you really are. The stimulant ephedrine is in many energy drinks and can cause heart problems. Because energy drinks are a fairly new concept and research on them is limited, it is recommended that young children and pregnant women to not consume them.