J. Robert Cade, 80; Gatorade Inventor

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

J. Robert Cade, 80, a University of Florida doctor who was the chief inventor of Gatorade, the nutrient-rich beverage that spawned the sports drinks industry, died Nov. 27 of kidney and heart ailments at Shands hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

In 1965, Dr. Cade directed a medical research team that sought to alleviate problems associated with fluid depletion among the university's football players. The resulting drink, called Gatorade after the school's nickname, replenished the body's nutrients and gave Florida teams a decided advantage.

The drink quickly caught on with other teams and exercise enthusiasts and became a huge business. Today, Gatorade, which is owned by PepsiCo, is sold worldwide and has more than 80 percent of the $7.5 billion U.S. market.

But it would never have happened if an assistant football coach hadn't asked Dr. Cade this all-important question: "Doctor, why don't football players wee-wee after a game?"

Dr. Cade and his team of doctors -- Dana Shires, H. James Free and A.M. deQuesada -- worked with 10 freshman football players, analyzing body temperature, sweat properties and blood composition. They discovered that the players sometimes lost more than 15 pounds during a game and had almost no fluid left in their bodies to excrete. Moreover, their levels of electrolytes, phosphates, potassium, sodium and blood sugar were severely affected.

"Each of these conditions, by itself, would to some extent incapacitate a player," Dr. Cade told a University of Florida oral history project. "Put them all together and you can have real problems."

After spending $43 on laboratory supplies and $111 on steak dinners for players participating in the experiments, Dr. Cade and his team devised a foul-tasting liquid that would replace the nutrients lost in vigorous workouts.

They added lemon juice and sugar to improve the flavor and tested their new drink in a scrimmage between the university's freshman team and the varsity's B team. After trailing throughout the first half, the freshmen -- replenished by Dr. Cade's mystery drink -- pushed the older B team players around the field in the second half.

The university's head coach, Ray Graves, asked for a supply of the drink for the next day's varsity game against Louisiana State University. Dr. Cade and his colleagues were up all night, squeezing lemons and mixing a batch of their solution. Aided by their secret sideline potion, the Gators came from behind in 102-degree heat to defeat LSU, 14-7.

In 1966, when 24 Gator players were admitted to the emergency room after practice on consecutive days, Graves requested that Gatorade -- named by Jim Free, one of Dr. Cade's researchers -- be available at all practices and games. That year, the Gators went 8-2, and quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy.

When Florida defeated Georgia Tech in the 1967 Orange Bowl, 27-12, the Georgia Tech coach explained why his team lost: "We did not have Gatorade. That made the difference."

James Robert Cade, who was born Sept. 26, 1927, in San Antonio, served in the Navy and later graduated from the University of Texas. He was a graduate of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and had internships in St. Louis, New York and Dallas. He came to Florida in 1961 as the school's first nephrologist, or kidney specialist.

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