The first time Robert Cade tasted his specially formulated sports drink, he vomited. It tasted disgusting. One person compared it to urine, another to toilet bowl cleaner. This, perhaps, should not have been surprising. The clear drink consisted mostly of water, fructose, and replacements for sodium and potassium—sodium citrate and monopotassium. This wasn't ideal. The drink was supposed to make the University of Florida's football players feel better, not worse. It needed to taste better.
Robert Cade and Dana Shires started working on this drink—what would become Gatorade—after colleagues who coached football sat down with Shires once for lunch and told him what was happening to the football players. Two dozen had been laid low by heat exhaustion in the humid Florida fall; players would lose 15 pounds during a three-hour game. Cade was a physician specializing in nephrology, the study of kidneys, and Shires a nephrology research fellow. Together, they examined the players, and found that the plasma volume in their blood could go down by 7 percent over the course of the game.
The two of them quickly thought about new research they had heard of, research that showed that if water was mixed with small amounts of salts and easily absorbed glucose, in a certain section of the small intestine, the body would more easily suck that water right up. They started concocting a formula that would keep the football players hydrated without making them sick.