Seth Stevenson and Eliza Truitt test sports foods and drinks.

Color Me Thirsty
Oct. 27 1999 12:36 PM

Seth Stevenson and Eliza Truitt test sports foods and drinks.

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Good morning, Seth.

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In front of me are 14 bottles of multicolored sports drinks. The only color I don't see is pink. The big three, Gatorade, Powerade, and All Sport, are all represented. The variations between brands are as follows: Gatorade has 110 milligrams sodium per serving, Powerade and All Sport have 55. All Sport is slightly carbonated. The other two are not. Other than that, the differences are all aesthetic. Powerade has flashy graphics, is saturated with dye, and has a more intense flavor. Gatorade is subtler, with the classic orange thunderbolt design, and has generally more mild watery flavors. (I bet, though, that their new "Fierce" line--Fierce Melon, Fierce Lime, etc.--which has stronger flavors, is meant to compete with Powerade.) All Sport's design leans toward the low-budget and simple, and it's a touch sweeter than the others, flavorwise.

The flavor names are ridiculous: Powerade has Mountain Blast, Jagged Ice, and Arctic Shatter. Gatorade has Alpine Snow, Riptide Rush, and Glacier Freeze. The new trend in drinks seems to be away from the traditional red-orange-yellow colors and fake-fruit flavors and toward the blue end of the color spectrum and the dropping of all pretense of fruitiness. Gatorade's "Frost" line sports semi-opaque blue, purple, and white drinks. But these new flavors--especially the Powerade flavors--are, I think, too intense. Powerade's Lemon Lime smells so strongly like bathroom cleaner you think you're going to burn your nose inhaling it, and it tastes the way I'd imagine bathroom cleaner would, too.

Instead of chowing down on sports bars like I did for our run across the Brooklyn Bridge, this time I drank a load of the sports drinks before I ran. And I felt a lot better than I did with the bars. But the many uncontrolled factors involved here (did I get a better night's sleep? Did I feel better because I didn't have a brick of imitation banana in my stomach?) make it impossible to conclusively attribute my feeling better to the more rapid and effective hydration I was receiving from the sports drinks. Nevertheless, I did feel better.

The differences in prices among the drinks were small. Powerade was the most expensive at 5.37 cents per ounce; All Sport was 4.53; and Gatorade, 4.21. In more understandable terms, Gatorade and All Sport were $1.35 and $1.45, respectively, for a 32-ounce bottle, and Powerade was $1.29 for a 24-ounce bottle.

After sampling everything on my smorgasbord of colored drinks, my favorite flavors ended up being the old fashioned Gatorade flavors: Fruit Punch and Orange. All Sport came close--the barely there carbonation was nice--but in the end it was just too sweet. Although I might be more likely to drink All Sport while sitting in front of the TV, when working out, the light, watery, slightly tangy old-school Gatorade is much more appealing. The only problem is the high sodium--there's no way I'll sweat enough to need those 110 milligrams Gatorade claims on its Web site that "the presence of sodium ... aids in stimulating fluid consumption." Is the idea to make you even thirstier so you'll drink more? What a scam!

So what did you think of the drinks? Are you worried at all about the amount of artificial flavors and colors that you're ingesting?

Yours,

Eliza

Eliza Truitt is an associate editor at Slate. Seth Stevenson is a general editor at Newsweek. This week, they test sports foods and drinks for performance-enhancing abilities.