Electrolytes are chemical substances that maintain fluid balance in people's cells and are essential for muscle function, blood pressure regulation and other bodily processes. People lose electrolytes through perspiration, and drinking certain beverages can help to replenish them.
Electrolytes include potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and chloride. During strenuous activity, drinking large quantities of plain water without replacing electrolytes can cause serious health problems.
In 1965, four doctors at the University of Florida developed a beverage to solve the dehydration issues experienced by the school's Gators football team. This beverage would become the drink we now know as Gatorade.
Gatorade contains mostly water, along with sodium, potassium, chloride and flavorings. The beverage rapidly replenishes electrolytes, which is the reason it's commonly used by professional and college athletic teams.
Gatorade also can benefit people working in hot conditions, and those who have become dehydrated because of an illness. It can even help individuals with hangovers.
Robert Cade, one of the physicians who developed the product, said he never imagined the general public would take such a liking to Gatorade. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2005 that Gatorade royalties paid to the University of Florida have totaled over $90 million.