Day in and day out, athletes are exposed to an onslaught of advertisements, most promising what they all want: increased performance. Something as simple as Gatorade has become the king of marketing and endorsements, the Gatorade Sports Institute is one of the leading researchers in athlete hydration. It is a wonder that such a praised product can also be so unpredictable. The product Gatorade is sound, as well as the science behind it; the problem is not the product, but the company.
Undoubtedly, Gatorade is one of the most researched products purchased by athletes (millions of them). Recently, many other companies have released similar products to compete with Gatorade, but the need to establish revenue has led to short changed products. After all, when Gatorade controls the market, the theory is to create a cheaper product to steal back the market. Companies like Powerade and All Sport, develop a product "exactly-like" Gatorade but cheaper.
To many athletes they appear the same, many just dismiss Powerade for being a bad product because it legitimately does not digest as well as Gatorade. This isn't just a "gut feeling", science supports this, as the main ingredient in Powerade is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Now, the actual debate of Fructose as a glycogen replenisher is a whole topic by itself, but all would agree, in the athletic environment, Dextrose / Glucose is superior. In fact, in the Fluid Replacement Position Statement released by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, and headed by esteemed hydration researcher and guru Doug Casa, ATC, PhD. , the researchers suggest that athletes limit fructose. The statement goes on to recommend that no more than 2-3% of the solution be comprised of fructose.
This provides a bit more insight as to why many athletes have a better experience (barring endorsement temptations) with powdered Gatorade. The story doesn't end there. Many athletes, for the sake of time and money, will train on Gatorade powder as it is far cheaper. These same athletes will often experience problems in competition where preparing your own Gatorade is nearly impossible. The majority, if not all, endurance events have moved from made-from-concentrate Gatorade to ready-to-drink Gatorade, or similar sports drink. This creates many problems, as Gatorade itself has fallen to a similar fate as Powerade: Ready-to-drink Gatorade now has a main ingredient of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
If there is one thing to learn in the supplement industry, it is to avoid ready-made drinks. Ready-to-drink protein supplements, and now ready-to-drink sports drinks are far inferior to even their same-brand concentrate counterparts. Gatorade powder, lists the main ingredients as Sucrose and Dextrose, very different from a syrup concoction of fructose. While many will note that Sucrose is in fact a disaccharide sugar of glucose and fructose, it still is not the primary ingredient. It is more important that the proper sugars are available to prevent the body from having to rely entirely on fructose.
From my own digestion issues, I have learned to train and race on the same powdered Gatorade. There is absolutely no indication that the quality of ready-to-drink products will improve, simply because most companies will not trade out profits to improve a product many do not know needs improvement.