Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Hydration - Gatorade

Howdy Ho Everybody!

This weeks review topic is indeed one that I have plenty of experience with. Over the last 15 years of cycling I have tried many hydration products. Some were good, some were bad and some were just plain WTF? I'm calling you out XLR8 or whatever that urine colored liquid concentrate was called, with the funky bottle and measuring cap. What I have discovered in those 15 years of trying everything under the sun is that it's all a bunch of marketing bullshit.

I am of the old school mold in all things cycling. I'm not a Luddite by any means, I embrace technology as much as the next guy, but I will only invest in new tech only If I believe it will have a payoff in performance for me. Cycling tech is not cheap, and like a seasoned investor I want a return on my investment. When it comes to gimmicky crap cycling has not been immune to the hucksters and their snake oils with promises of increased VO2, lactic buffering, etc, etc, ad nauseum. I was not immune to the sirens calls of those snake oil salesman and their promises of better, faster, stronger.

I bought into the hype on some of these products and gave them an honest run. I can report that the only thing they did for me is to part me with my money. They worked no better than Gatorade. Some of those products have actually hindered my performance. Cytomax, for instance, always made me sick to my stomach because it sat very heavy down there after ingesting it. My number one criteria for a hydration product is that it should not make me want to belch. Especially when I'm on the rivet. The problem with most products is they have too much sugar or sweetner. Powerade comes to mind here. If you can think of a worse product than Powerade, I'd like to know about it.

Having tried and rejected almost everything that has come to market in the last 15 years I have come to accept the ubiquitous Gatorade as my hydration drink of choice. I like it for many reasons. The first and main reason is that it just plain works. I have never been on a ride where I have bonked or hit the wall when I've had access to Gatorade. I have come close to dying on a ride from running out of fluids and like an oasis in the desert even the most run down backwoods country store has Gatorade. It's no small coincidence either. Gatorade has been around almost as long as I have. I remember buying it as a kid at the local 7-11. Back then it came in quart size glass jars with big mouth lids and metal caps. Which brings me to my 2nd main reason I like Gatorade. I can buy it anywhere. Have you ever been to a convenience store that didn't sell Gatorade? Me neither. It's as omnipresent as Coco-Cola. It's a great product that works and their marketing is 2nd to none in the performance drink market. And since I've been drinking the stuff since childbirth my body is used to it and doesn't reject it even under extreme duress. Even in the high heat of summer when the stuff in the bottle is hotter than jacuzzi water, I can put it down without drama. My body knows what it wants and it wants Gatorade.

Which brings me to my third reason for favoring Gatorade. It's cheap. Even though the marketing is huge for Gatorade, they have an advantage over all the others and it's price. I buy the huge can of powder at Sam's Club and I get more the twice the amount of drink than I would get with the other products. With the powder I can also mix it to any strength I like. I prefer to mix my own batches on the heavy side. That way when I'm out on the road for a long time, I can top up with water and still have a bit of electrolyte in the bottle. Speaking of water, that is my number 2 preferred hydration drink. In fact if I am only going for a short ride of of an hour of so, I only take one bottle of water. On any other ride one bottle of water, one bottle of Gatorade.

I will admit that right now I am out of Gatorade and am using a big bottle of Heed powder that I scored as some feebee swhag. It has the weirdest taste, mine is Strawberry, but it is almost as light as water. Remarkably Heed comes closest to delivering on what it promises for a hydration product. I've been using Hammer gel for a couple of years now with good results, so maybe I might actually spend my own money on another bottle of Heed when the one I got is gone. Than again, maybe not. Sometimes that weird taste just gets to me.

One thing is for certain. Like death and taxes, there will always be Gatorade. It's always there, somewhere, anywhere, when you need it most.



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