The Truth About Sports Drinks

If you’ve ever looked at a fluorescent colored so-called “sports drink” (i.e. Gatorade, Powerade and all the wannabes in the category) and wondered if it could possibly quality as a natural, healthy beverage, we now know the answer: No, it’s not. Don’t take my word for it, here’s an exhaustive review of the relevant science by Deborah Cohen in the BMJ:

Prehydrate; drink ahead of thirst; train your gut to tolerate more fluid; your brain doesn’t know you’re thirsty—the public and athletes alike are bombarded with messages about what they should drink, and when, during exercise. But these drinking dogmas are relatively new. In the 1970s, marathon runners were discouraged from drinking fluids for fear that it would slow them down, says Professor Tim Noakes, Discovery health chair of exercise and sports science at Cape Town University. At the first New York marathon in 1970, there was little discussion about the role of hydration—it was thought to have little scientific value.

So how did the importance of hydration gain traction? An investigation by the BMJ has found that companies have sponsored scientists, who have gone on to develop a whole area of science dedicated to hydration. These same scientists advise influential sports medicine organisations, which have developed guidelines that have filtered down to everyday health advice. These guidelines have influenced the European Food Safety Authority, the EU agency that provides independent advice on the evidence underpinning health claims relating to food and drink. And they have spread fear about the dangers of dehydration.

Much of the focus on hydration can be traced back to the boom in road running, which began with the New York marathon. Manufacturers of sports shoes and the drink and nutritional supplement industries spotted a growing market.

One drink in particular was quick to capitalise on the burgeoning market. Robert Cade, a renal physician from the University of Florida, had produced a sports drink in the 1960s that contained water, sodium, sugar, and monopotassium phosphate with a dash of lemon flavouring.1 2

Gatorade—named after the American Football team, the Gators, that it was developed to help—could prevent and cure dehydration, heat stroke, and muscle cramps, and improve performance, it was claimed.2 …

[continues in the BMJ]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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14 Comments on "The Truth About Sports Drinks"

  1. IrishPotatoGun | Jul 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    Brawndo  has what plants crave.

  2. really? who woulda thunk it

  3. TorgIshere | Jul 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm |

    Shit makes my hangover go away… Sure it might be because im rehydrating but the sugars salts and trace vitamins help

  4. Gatorade as is in the premixed bottle has WAY too much sugar and its too concentrated for flavor it has become a tasty beverage not just a sports drink, and that  needless concentration  is what causes  tp the body from what i can see. To properly drink gatorade you got to dilute it in water. I buy powered gatorade and just use a little bit in my water to add the extra minerals and chemicals while not over loading my system with them. In the picture they also show the gatorade protein drink “recover”, while not being the best quality protein, protein does work for post game recovery as most of us know. 

  5. I don’t know if this was the same study that the BMJ published linked with Oxford University, but if it is, things actually go further. The study found that basically all sports products have no effect – sports drinks are no better than water, expensive trainers are no better than well fitting cheap ones, and supplements (apart from caffeine) provide you with no edge over just eating a balanced diet. The conclusion was that there really is no extra benefit for the extra money spent on any “sport enhancing” products.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 25, 2012 at 7:56 am |

      Except for steroids.

    • thats bull. Creatine works for sure and so does beta alanine. Drugs have an affect  and supplements are drugs. There is fraud out there and discussion on how much affect some supplements have. But some do work and its usually the least expensive ones like Creatine Monohydrate. 

  6. 6Blackie6 | Jul 25, 2012 at 5:35 am |

     Just count how many fat kids you see drinking “sports drinks” compared to healthy looking ones.

  7. Simiantongue | Jul 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    Men have been selling tonics from the back of wagons for centuries. They’ll make your hair grow back, increase your virility, get rid of what ails you. The latest batch will enhance your athletic ability.

    I remember the days when water didn’t come in twelve different flavors and we were grateful to have it!! lol

  8. kurisushiro | Jul 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

    Good thing I gave up sports drinks before this. I’ll have one on occasion but not as much as I used to.

  9. herry taillor | Aug 25, 2012 at 2:38 am |


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