New Study Slams Sports Drinks

Why you should consider drinking good old fashioned water the next time you work out.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

So hypothetically, you are about to embark upon a long workout that promises to physically push you and you are afraid that dehydration may hamper you in the future. To prepare for that, you do what you have been taught to do by countless TV ads and respected sports figures; you chug a sports drink in preparation and get to work.

You follow that up by routinely chugging more of the drink at various times, even though you're not thirsty, to stave off that potential dehydration. By the end of the workout, which was quite vigorous, you have downed three bottles of sports drink and avoided any potential problems lack of the drink might have caused.

Well, congratulations, you have successfully fell into the trap that companies making these sports drinks have laid for you.

According to new research provided by the British Medical Journal, which includes seven scathing reports that investigate everything from the sports-drink industry’s financial ties to scientists who study hydration to what researchers call “a striking lack of evidence to support the vast majority of claims related to enhanced performance or recovery.”, it has become readily apparent that the consumers are being hosed by a bunch of quasi-false advertising.

In a nutshell, researchers are contending that much of the science behind sports drinks is biased or inconclusive and that empty calories from sports drinks are major contributors to childhood obesity and tooth decay. The investigation concludes that dehydration has been overblown into a “dreaded disease of exercise,” due to fear mongering by marketers, rather than solid, independent science.

The BMJ claims that the biased science behind the false assumption that the human body is incapable of recognizing the need for liquids stems from scientists who have been sponsored by the companies producing the sports-drink, thus creating a natural environment for biased research.

An example of this is that The American College of Sports Medicine accepted a $250,000 donation from Gatorade in 1992. Four years later, the college developed new guidelines adopting a “zero percent dehydration” rule telling athletes to “drink as much as tolerable,” Cohen reports. The guideline originated in a 1993 roundtable meeting supported by Gatorade, according to Atlantic Monthly.

In reality, the need for constant drinking throughout exercising is a fraudulent claim. The human body gives us fair warning to possible dehydration in the form of being thirsty. To back that up, the BMJ analyzed current hydration guidelines for marathon runners and found that, “drinking according to the dictate of thirst throughout a marathon seems to confer no major disadvantage over drinking to replace all fluid losses, and there is no evidence that full fluid replacement is superior to drinking to thirst.”

Another area of concern that the BMJ touched on is that companies like Gatorade have school outreach programs and actively encourage kids to drink their products during exercise. Because these high-calorie drinks are promoted as part of fitness, parents and kids often view them as much healthier than other sugar-laden beverages. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, warns that sugar in sports drinks contributes to both obesity and tooth decay in kids.

"The way sports beverages have been marketed to children is astonishing. They're almost seen as an essential part of participation in sports, when the best beverage for a child participating in any physical activity is just plain water,” Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh told ABC News.

So, in conclusion, like with many other things we see on TV, don't believe everything you're told on the need and necessity of sports drinks and make sure you monitor what your kids are drinking if you want to avoid potential dental bills.

James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on

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