Every year magazines do a review of this category. It includes publishing a little chart like ours (on another page), and usually ends with the usual editorial cop-out: "Try them all and choose the one that works for you."
We've also tried to make it a little easier for you, since there's so much data here. We've gathered information on the following companies...
"Why these companies?" you might ask. Because we think they are interesting. Why is Gatorade interesting? Because it was just sold by Quaker Oats to Pepsi and many have wondered whether this brand will still be run the same way it has been, with the same scientific emphasis (to go along with -- to be sure -- a strong marketing emphasis). We'll let you be the judge by what you read here.
Finally, we hope something will start to sink in with our readers. As one of these scientists put it, "... all [the athletes] are really doing is effectively creating a drink inside anyway, so why not get it right from the start and take the proper drink." In other words, it isn't what you eat. It's what you absorb. That's what matters. If you guzzle a bottle of fluid replacement drink that has a maximum absorbable concentration, and you follow it with a energy bar, have you now effectively got a hyper-concentrated solution rolling around in your stomach, the contents of which cannot absorb effectively? This is precisely the sort of discussion we're having in these pages, with more to come.
QUESTION 1: There are two schools of thought among fluid replacement company principals as to how many nutrients need to be included in a beverage meant to be used during exercise. One end of the spectrum holds that carbohydrate and a couple of electrolytes are sufficient, while the other that a drink with upwards of 100 nutrients is optimal, since that's what the body will use during exercise. What is your company's approach; if you want you may include any scientific reasoning to support your company's position.
QUESTION 2: What type of sugar do you use, and why?
QUESTION 3: Most companies describe the ratio of solute-to-solvent in terms of their beverage's percent solution. Do you feel that this is sufficient for the discussion, or whether the discussion of osmotic pressure is germane? Please add any detail on this subject you feel is needed.
QUESTION 4: There has been a lot of talk recently about supplementing salt to one's during-race intake, especially in long, hot races where salt loss is extreme. Can you offer your company's position on this, and perhaps your view on the pros and cons of this?
QUESTION 5: It is customary for a race organizer to offer a variety of food and drink. In particular, one might find bananas on the course, gels such as GU, and defizzed Coke. What is your company's position on these other food and drink sources, and is it in the athlete's best interest to take any of them? If so, which, and when, and under what circumstances?
QUESTION 6: We may not have asked a question you feel is important. Please feel free to expand and expound on anything we've missed on the topic in general, or with regard to your brand in particular.