Solutions in Sports Drinks

Sweating, Carbohydrates and Electrolytes

When we exercise, our body burns carbohydrates in order to produce energy. In addition, heat is also produced from these reactions causing an increase in body temperature. Therefore, our body absorbs the excess heat by evaporating it, resulting in sweat. While sweat cools the body, too much of it causes poor performance and can damage the body. Excess sweat results in stress on the heart, raise body temperature as well as loose important electrolytes. As described in the previous blog, electrolytes are essential in storing and processing carbohydrates transmitting nerve impulses and other essential cellular processes.

Improvements in Solutions

Furthermore, osmosis  occurs in the body when water passes from blood into the less concentrated cells reducing blood volume as a result of excess sweating and water loss. The inventors of Gatorade used these principles in order to develop a behavorage to hydrate and restore electrolyte balances. Gatorade was designed to be delicious so the taste would encourage increased hydration as opposed to water. It also contains sugars that provide additional energy. Electrolytes are also concentrated in Gatorade to prevent a loss of electrolytes during exercise.

Fluid Concentration

One concept of ingested fluid is its concentration relative to your body fluid. This is essential when selecting an appropriate drink to stay hydrated.The three types of concentrations include:

  • Hypotonic- a solution that is less concentrated than that of your body fluids

  • Isotonic- a solution approximately equal in concentration to your body fluids

  • Hypertonic- a solution more in concentration than that of your body fluids

While more concentrated drinks offer more energy, their fast absorption into the bloodstream is limited. Factors for the speed at which a fluid from a drink gets into the body include the speed at which it empties from the stomach and the rate at which it is absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. Higher carbohydrate levels provide more energy, but a slower absorption rate. Hypotonic drinks, such as water, are great at hydrating the body, but provide little energy benefits. On the other hand, hypertonic solutions provide energy, but are not good are hydrating the body. With a carbohydrate level between 6 and 8%, sports drinks like Gatorade are isotonic. Isotonic is the perfect balance, as it can be well absorbed in the body with a similar rate to water, but also provide electrolytes and energy to the body.

Gatorade Begins

At the hot practices at the University of Florida, football players would suffer from dehydration. Players attempted to drink orange juice and soft drinks to quench their thirst, but these drinks made players feel full and dehydrated. Doctors at the University attempted to develop a drink that tasted well and improved performance. The doctors began by using a basic salt solution, the same one used in IV fluid replacement in hospitals. IV solutions replace fluids and add electrolytes to the blood stream. They added glucose to the solution to increase energy. In addition water, sodium, potassium, phosphate and lemon juice were dissolved to make the original Gatorade. Although Gatorade has changed, it still contains many salts and sugars dissolved in water to form a solution. There are only about 130 calories in Gatorade, which is not a whole lot of energy. However, the chemicals dissolved in the solution allow for optimal hydration.

Gatorade is a 6% carbohydrate solution. This provides energy helping to fight fatigue and is easier to absorb than water. Electrolytes in Gatorade carry a charge to muscles and give off energy, the key to staying hydrated. As shown, the inventors of Gatorade used the concepts of solutions to create a million dollar sports drink and hydrate amaturature and professional athletes everywhere.


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