As many people, I started with Gatorade, the kind you can buy at a gas station or grocery store. I don’t dislike it per se, but changed from this type of drink to other less sugary options. I do think Gatorade has a role (more on that below). I have settled on Skratch and like it a lot (lemon + lime flavor). It’s not sugary at all, and contains electrolites as mentioned. I’ve used it on Sprint and Olympic distance races and it goes down quite well for me. I’m also using it on my long ride / brick workouts combined with gels and so far so good. It’s low on calories compared to Gatorade so you have to take that into account for long course racing / training and get most of your calories from other sources. I have tried Osmo as well, and I liked it too. I would say it’s similar to Skratch (more similar than something like Gatorade / Powerade).
If you can tolerate Gatorade (or similar), the sugary stuff is like rocket fuel at the end of a long hard ride / race. As your glycogen stores gets depleted, these drinks can boost your performance when you are really tired. In my experience though, that is something that once you start doing, you have to continue (sort of like doing gels with caffeine). Just my personal experience, but I have had a hard time when doing Gatorade and going back to non sugary drinks at the end of long rides. This is why you might still see cyclists having a coke right at the end of a long race, it’s sugar going directly to your blood (haven’t tried this option myself, but the same principle applies). I get the feeling that this is less an effect on long course since the intensity is lower, but can’t say for sure. I guess we’ll find out soon!