The foundation of the global sports drink industry can be traced to the work of Dr. Robert Cade and the development of Gatorade, a process that Cade and a research team initiated in 1965.
The hydration practices of athletes in 1965 were significantly different than they are today. Many coaches and athletic trainers actively discouraged players from drinking water or any other fluids during workouts, believing that the players would become incapacitated by cramps.
Cade, a professor of nephrology (kidney function) at the University of Florida, was asked in August of 1965 by members of the varsity football team why the players lost considerable amounts of weight while practicing in warm weather, but the players never felt any need to urinate. Cade and a team of Florida researchers, including Dr. Dana Shires, turned their attention to this question. After conducting analyses of the players' perspiration, urine, and other physical indicators both before and after warm weather workouts, Cade and his team concluded that the players sustained a significant electrolytic imbalance through the elimination of sodium by perspiration, as well as a corresponding reduction in blood volume. Cade reasoned that all of these factors would impair athletic performance.
Cade and his team devised a replacement fluid that contained sodium and a small amount of carbohydrates to assist the body in maintaining the desired electrolytic balance. The initial formulation tasted unpleasant, but after some discussion with the Florida coaching staff, the fluid was consumed by the freshman team during an inter squad scrimmage as a test. The beverage was found to be so effective in assisting the Florida football team in dealing with warm weather practice conditions, its use was mandated by the coaching staff in all games; in 1965, Florida went on to enjoy one of the best seasons in the history of the institution.
The fluid was named Gatorade in recognition of the university nickname, the Gators. Cade registered a patent for the fluid; it became a commercial product when Cade sold the rights to the manufacture of Gatorade to Stokely Van Camp in 1967. With an explosion in mass participation in endurance activities such as running and triathlons during the 1970s and 1980s, Gatorade became the world's best known sports drink.
Cade ultimately arranged for a portion of the royalties generated by the sale of Gatorade to be directed to the University of Florida. By 2006, the university had received over $90 million as a result of Cade's work.
After developing Gatorade, Cade successfully continued his medical research career at the University of Florida. Cade lead various research projects that examined methods by which illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism could be better managed through diet.