Sports Drink Industry and Dubious Science
The authoritative British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently published
seven important articles concluding that sports drinks are being marketed on
the basis on bad science funded by the food industry. Below are links to the articles and a brief
The evidence underpinning sports performance products: a systematic assessment. There is no compelling scientific evidence
that sports drinks improve athletic performance. When the cited literature from
websites of sports products were critically analyzed, researchers found 143 of
146 articles were either absent or scientifically worthless. The 3 articles
that were scientifically valid each found no benefit to sports drinks.
The truth about sports
drinks. BMJ's Investigations Editor
Deborah Cohen explores the funding and financial ties between the big food
companies who market sports drinks and professional sport organizations and
expert advisory panels. The companies
bankroll research to support sports drink friendly findings that eventually are
incorporated into official medical and sport recommendations, often by advisory
boards with multiple members on sports drink payrolls.
How valid is the European
Food Safety Authority’s assessment of sports drinks? The authors were
highly critical of the two claims approved by the EFSA, that sport drinks,
"improved water absorption during exercise" and that they
helped with "maintenance of endurance performance.” The scientific studies for both claims were
of poor quality and did not include performances in a race or sporting event.
Role of hydration in health
and exercise. This article by Tim
Noakes can be summarized as follows: Dehydration
is a normal biological response to exercise.
You lose water; you get thirsty, you drink. End of story.
And, over-hydration is a much more common and dangerous risk to the
athlete than dehydration.
Forty years of sports
performance research and little insight gained. The authors' conclusion says it all:
“From our analysis of the current evidence, we conclude that over prolonged periods carbohydrate ingestion can improve exercise performance, but consuming large amounts is not a good strategy particularly at low and moderate exercise intensities and in exercise lasting less than 90 minutes. There was no substantial evidence to suggest that liquid is any better than solid carbohydrate intake and there were no studies in children. Given the high sugar content and the propensity to dental erosions children should be discouraged from using sports drinks."
Mythbusting sports and
exercise products. Among the busted
- The color of urine accurately reflects hydration (No)
- You should drink before you feel thirsty (No)
- Energy drinks with caffeine or other compounds improve sports performance (nothing other than possible benefit from caffeine)
- Carbohydrate and protein combinations improve post-workout performance and recovery (No)
- Compression garments improve performance or enhance recovery (performance probably not, recovery yes)
Commentary: To drink or not
to drink recommendations: the evidence. Four conclusions on how to stay
1. There’s a wide range of hydration within which our bodies work wonderfully.
2. Freely chosen rates of fluid intake among elite athletes match sports body recommendations (14 to 20 fluid ounces per hour).
3. Intake at rates higher than sport body recommendations offer no advantages.
4. Athletes who gauge fluid intake solely by thirst perform better that those drinking fluids based on prescribed sweat-loss formulas.