POWERade is another triumph from the Sunny Delight school of marketing. It has the colour (and indeed flavour) of Godzilla’s radioactive wee, and so in some twisted way we delude ourselves into thinking that something so obviously toxic can only possibly be good for us. Aided of course by the marketing people, most notoriously with product placement and ad campaigns based around the Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions and Enter the Matrix releases.
Still, the bottle is an effective design, ribbed so that you can grip it in one hand and drink from it while exercising. Obviously you should try and get a bottle with a sports cap rather than the flat top.
Fundamentally, an isotonic drink is one that contains the same kind of concentration of salts and sugar as the average human body. Yes, POWERade is basically just water with corn syrup and salt added. Corn syrup being the traditional base substance for fake blood in films, fact fans. You lose a lot of sodium as well as water when you sweat, so for all my carping, sports drinks are fulfilling a legitimate function.
Whether it’s legitimate enough to charge over a quid for a 500ml bottle (£1.25 in my newsagent, but prices vary a lot), though, is somewhat more debatable. Because that’s where the branding comes in. POWERade is produced by the fuzzy and lovable Coca Cola company, trying to muscle in on the similarly flourescent Gatorade’s market share (Gatorade being owned of course by Pepsi). POWERade was the official sports drink of the 1994 Olympics, as well as of various sports teams including the New Zealand, Australian AND English rugby teams. Talk about hedging your bets.
But when big brands battle it out with exciting advertising and thrilling celebrity endorsements (hello Wayne Rooney), it’s the consumer that loses out, paying over the odds for a bottle of sugary water that tastes like…
Yeah… it’s not the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever tasted (deep-fried calves’ brains, if you’re interested), but POWERade is not something anyone should ever even consider drinking for fun. An overpowering taste of sugar floods the mouth on first sip, and then you get a frankly foul salty aftertaste. There are sort of hints of some sort of fruit flavour, but very synthetic fruit.
In fact, it tastes pretty much exactly like the melty bit at the bottom of Freezer Pops. Only with added salt.
One thing I’ve never really felt from this product is any extra energy buzz or refreshment, at least no more so than from drinking water. Don’t be fooled by the advertising, this is not an energy drink in the same sense as something like Red Bull. It won’t keep you alert enough to pull all-nighters writing essays, and it won’t give you wings. It will make you feel slightly less exhausted in the hours after an intensive training session, and it will help you train longer than normal, but that’s a very different set of circumstances.
Now, there are those who say that this doesn’t matter, that you’re drinking it for the rehydration benefit rather than a taste experience. And that is a point of view, but it leads me to my conclusion.
You should only even consider drinking this if you’re a dedicated athlete or sports person. By which I don’t mean someone who goes to the gym once a week for forty minutes until they feel a bit shagged out and then slopes off to the pub (me). By which I don’t mean someone who plays football at the weekend, generally with a hangover, and then goes for a curry (most of my mates). This is for people who train and compete until they’re drenched in sweat and need to recover enough energy to get home without passing out. Sports drinks should absolutely never be an image thing, because they’re so high in sugar and salt that you might as well just drink coke or beer or whatever.
Now, the website (www.powerade.com if you’re really bothered) will tell you that it’s suitable for sports participants in all sports at all levels, but that’s because they’re trying to shift as much product as possible.
When it comes right down to it, though, when I’ve been in need of rehydration products – during my stints of serious cycling, and occasionally even acting (you can laugh, but Oberon’s wig, cloak and leather trousers weren’t much fun on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of June under stage lights with no air conditioning), I’ve found Gatorade to be slightly cheaper, slightly better tasting, and just as effective.
Also, it’s an absolutely ridiculous name, that reminds me of Homer’s AppleSOURCE bars in the Simpsons. POWERade reeks of having been launched in the late 80s, and could do with a rebrand.