Hitting the bottle?
A South African hydration expert has slammed the role of sports drinks in setting the agenda on fluid intake during exercise, saying Australians are actually more likely to cause themselves harm by over-consuming fluids, rather than suffering any ill effects of dehydration.
Professor Tim Noakes (below) was on the Gold Coast today (April 20, 2012) to address more than 800 exercise physiologists at the Exercise and Sports Science Australia ‘Research to Practice’ conference.
In his keynote address, he said he believes the ‘science’ of drinking during exercise has been commercially manipulated with some fatal consequences.
‘While the likes of Gatorade have us believe we need to be drinking 1.2 litres per hour during exercise, there is no clinical research that proves this,’ Tim told the conference. ‘In fact, over-consumption of fluids could be detrimental.
‘These claims have had athletes across the world believe that drinking any less would negatively impact on performance, which is completely unfounded.
‘Some of the most successful athletes in the world are the ones who drink the least. The dreaded “dehydration” disease had to be created only to produce a commercial windfall that would result from this radical change in the drinking behaviour of athletes.’
Tim says the hype created around the dehydration condition has resulted in people drinking too much during exercise, which negatively impacts on performance due to excess weight carried by the athlete, and more seriously, the potentially fatal complication of Exercise-Associated Hyponatraemic Encephalopathy (EAHE).
Drinking gathers momentum
In 1965, Dr Robert Cade developed the world’s first sports drink at the University of Florida, Tim says: he believed that only by drinking during exercise could athletes optimise their performance and protect themselves from heatstroke.
‘This despite the absence of any evidence, then as now, that dehydration plays any role in the development of heat illness during exercise,’ Tim told the conference.
‘Then in 1982 and 1984 scientists from the United States Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) proposed the novel hypothesis that water should be considered a tactical weapon in battle.
‘Thus soldiers who drank at very high rates would be prevented from developing “heat illness” and would have a tactical advantage as surely as if they had superior weaponry.
‘Despite the absolute absence of any evidence to support this attractive hypothesis, within a short time this new dogma was accepted by USARIEM, the US Military and a cadre of industry-supported scientists advising important international though-leaders such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).’
Several position statements on thermal injuries during distance running were developed by the ACSM in the years that followed, proposing that athletes should drink at high rates during exercise in order to optimise their performance and to reduce their risk of developing ‘heat illness’.
‘The 1996 ACSM Position Stands went further, proposing that athletes should “drink as much as tolerable” so that they did not lose any weight during exercise,’ Tim says.
Athletes need only to be told that they should drink according to the dictates of thirst during exercise, he says.