Question: Is there a way to determine the taste of a sports drink by looking at its list of ingredients? — Simon S.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I wish! Besides the various ingredients that add flavor, and their proportions, there’s the fact that drinks can taste different depending on whether they contain fructose, maltodextrin or a combination, or something else to sweeten the mix.
In short, it’s impossible to predict the flavor from reading the label.
Also, some drinks taste fine when they’re cold at the start of a ride. Later, when they’re warm and/or might have picked up some plastic undertones from the bottle, they taste awful.
Your changing taste buds play a role, too. The same drink at the same temperature can taste different depending on your situation—fresh, early in a ride, or dehydrated, bonked and grumpy 75 miles later.
The only way to determine which drink tastes (and works) best for you is to try several brands in different riding conditions.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a favorite, try it in different concentrations. This is time-consuming, but it’s better to figure it out in training than to make a mistake during an important event where you want to do well.