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What Does Gatorade Taste Like?

Matt Schudel

Dr. J. Robert Cade, who was largely responsible for the invention of Gatorade, was quite a guy. He was a nephrologist -- a kidney specialist -- at the University of Florida who studied the blood composition, fatigue levels and body temperatures of the university's football players before brewing up the nutrient-rich concoction in the mid-1960s. The obituary of Dr. Cade delves into the origin of Gatorade and describes some of his achievements later in life.

It also refers to his quarrel with the University of Florida, which apparently wanted to claim ownership of the Gatorade patent when officials there realized how much money could be made from it. And it describes how Dr. Cade tested one football player's assertion that an early form of Gatorade tasted like ... well, a certain a yellow bodily excretion.

Dr. Cade decided to examine this claim with typical empirical rigor. After filling a cup with his own urine, he stuck a finger in the liquid and tasted it. His comment became the kicker -- the final anecdote or quip -- in the obit: "You know what?" he said. "There's a significant difference in flavor."

He added lemon juice and sugar to the phosphates, potassium and other good stuff, creating the fruity flavor that Gatorade still has.

Such directness, I learned, was fairly common with Dr. Cade, who was nothing if not a complex and interesting man. He played the violin superbly, recited long passages of Wordsworth and Tennyson, restored antique Studebaker cars -- and wrote a book about the voyages of Christopher Columbus, positing a new location for his first landing in the New World.

Dr. Cade used some of his royalties from Gatorade to fund scholarships and to endow a chair at the University of Florida medical school and did a great deal of scientific work on things not related to Gatorade -- lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, for instance. He and did promising work linking the presence of certain proteins in the diet with autism and schizophrenia. some mental disorders. Other researchers are using his work as a starting point for further work.

By all accounts, he was kind, humble and cussedly independent -- which may have been one reason he thought it worth his time to create a sports drink for football players in the first place. I didn't have room to include this in the obit, but in 1980 Dr. Cade was arrested for fighting a deputy sheriff in Florida. It seems the deputy was giving a teenager a hard time for driving around a police barricade, and Dr. Cade went over and gave the cop a piece of his mind.

Every Friday at his laboratory, Dr. Cade led what he called a "Hepato-Renal Symposium" for his fellow doctors and medical researchers. It began with a few minutes of discussion of medical issues of the day and invariably ended with Dr. Cade mixing cocktails with the same zeal with which he whipped up his first batches of Gatorade.

By Matt Schudel  |  November 28, 2007; 6:23 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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It's not well-known, but the original concept for a sports drink was actually developed at Florida State. But "Seminole Fluid" didn't do well in the marketplace for some reason.

Posted by: PJ Geraghty | November 28, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Nice story. It probably was "Hepato-Renal Symposium," however.

Posted by: AlbertHall | November 29, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

This isn't related to Mr. Cade, but I'm wondering why the Post and other major newspapers haven't run an obituary for Hollis Alpert, the writer, editor, and critic who co-founded the National Society of Film Critics with Pauline Kael. The only obits I can find via Google are a paid death notice in the New York Times four days ago and an article in the Naples (Florida) Daily News.

Mr. Alpert was, as one poster wrote on alt.obituaries, "a semi-big deal". He was the fiction editor for The New Yorker for six years and editor-in-chief of American Film Magazine.

Posted by: Charlene | November 29, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Albert Hall is correct -- I left out the "a" in Hepato. Thank you, Charlene, for bringing Hollis Alpert to our attention. We'll try to look into it.

Posted by: Matt Schudel | December 1, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

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