Posts Tagged ‘sports drinks’

How Athletes Were Convinced to Drink Despite Not Being Thirsty

Sales of sports drinks now exceed $3 billion annually in the US, according to Beverage Industry Magazine.

Much of the rise in the popularity of these drinks is due to the industry’s modern marketing tactics and the strength of a unique positive product image, says human performance expert Tim Noakes, MD.

These tactics have led athletes and fitness enthusiasts to falsely believe they are unable to naturally monitor their hydration levels and drink accordingly.

In his forthcoming book, Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports (Human Kinetics, 2012), Noakes debunks beliefs about hydration that have taken hold over the past 30 years.

The book outlines practices that endurance athletes should follow, variables they should consider, and guidelines they should use in maintaining proper fluid balance in sport training and performance.

He shows how the past 3 decades have been not only a time of runaway success for the sports drink industry but have led to a unique sports injury — exercise-associated hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition caused by overdrinking during extended exercise.

“If drinking during exercise was so important,” Noakes says, “then why should a product that contains no unique molecules ever be taken seriously, especially if its core ingredients of glucose, salt, water, and a dash of lemon are present in even the most rudimentary kitchen?”

And unless you’re running or biking a long distance, you probably don’t need any supplements during activity.

Afterwards, your body might recover just as well with lots of water and a protein snack (think peanut butter sandwich), which is a lot less expensive than fancy sports drinks.

Noakes research shows that sports drink industry marketing methods have helped sustain the idea that dehydration is a condition with a specific set of symptoms (like confusion, dizziness, nausea, cramping, and fainting) that can be diagnosed and prevented, such as by ingesting more sports drinks during exercise.

“Of course, if a patient’s symptoms are not due to a reduction in the total-body water, then those symptoms caused by some other condition will not disappear when the patient is either told to drink more or is treated with intravenous fluids after exercise,” Noakes says.

As a result, he believes the treatments are more likely to cause or exacerbate the underlying condition.

Noakes, who is also a medical doctor and an exercise physiologist, stresses that the only symptom of dehydration is thirst.

It is not a medical condition or disease that produces a variety of unique symptoms.

If an otherwise healthy athlete seeking medical care is not thirsty, it is unlikely that dehydration is the cause of any illness or symptoms that may be present at the same time.

“Not surprisingly,” Noakes points out, “thirst is an uncommon complaint in athletes treated during and after endurance events in which fluid is freely available.”

As well as being an uncommon complaint, thirst is not even listed as a symptom of dehydration by those who have promoted it as a disease.

Noakes believes that the widespread disinformation about the need for sports drinks to treat dehydration helps explain why doctors often treat patients incorrectly, thinking those patients are dehydrated when, in reality, they are overhydrated.

“It is disturbing that incorrect advice to the public and the public’s own susceptibility to promotional efforts resulted in a novel medical condition that affected thousands of soldiers, hikers, runners, cyclists, and triathletes, causing some to die,” Noakes comments.

“Sadly, this phenomenon and the deaths that apparently resulted from it were preventable.”

He believes that the notion of drinking despite lack of thirst is just as bad as water restrictions and required ingestion of salt tablets were during the 1960s.

Today’s athletes, parents, coaches, and even many professionals in medicine, fitness, and sport science push the intake of fluid far beyond the bounds of what solid research suggests.

“Indeed,” Noakes contends, “10s of millions of athletes and fitness enthusiasts are waterlogged in that the hydration practices to which they religiously adhere adversely affect their health and performance.”