July 20, 2012 — Since the 1980s, the sports-drink industry has boomed into a global, multi-billion dollar industry. Much of the industry’s success is based on the perception that a sports drink is superior to water because they boost athletic performance. Now, a series of seven critical studies have been published in the British Medical Journal debunking the science behind sports drinks. Researchers found that 53% of sports drinks with performance-enhancing claims had no cited studies to back up their claims, and those that did, 84% of the studies had a high risk of bias.
The researchers also found that 42% of the studies were not random. Only 27% of the studies involved participants who were not aware of the type of sports drink they were drinking. Only 11% of the studies listed potential faults with the study method. The researchers deemed only 4% of the studies to be “of high quality and at low risk of bias.”
The researchers and editors of the BMJ concluded that customers are not adequately informed about the risks and benefits of using sports products with performance-enhancing claims.
The BMJ also published a study of the origin of the sports drink industry. Major American beverage companies funded scientists who “developed a whole area of science dedicated to hydration.” The scientists then published papers and spread information about the risks of dehydration.
This advice has trickled down to the average consume. Advocates of sports drinks claim that “hydrating” with a drink spiked with nutritional supplements is superior to drinking water in response to thirst.
Perhaps the biggest issue with sports drinks is the amount of sugar and calories. Many people exercise to burn fat, which requires a deficit of calories. However, one Gatorade has 200 calories and 56 grams of sugar — several American health associations recommend a recovery drink only after one hour of maximum, strenuous exercise. The sugar content in one Gatorade is also four times the amount recommended for children (12 grams).
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