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How You’re Being Manipulated By The Sports Drink Industry And What You Can Do About It.

We've been lied to by the sports drink industry, including “reputable” companies like Gatorade.

And people are dying because of it, especially during endurance events like marathons and triathlons.

So what can you do about it?

You're about to find out.

Dr. Timothy Noakes, who I first interviewed in the podcast “The Death of Gatorade – Should You Stop Using Electrolytes During Exercise?” is a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He has run more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons, and is the author of the quintessential book “Lore of Running”.

During this audio interview, Dr. Noakes and I discuss the groundbreaking content in his new book “Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports”

Just a few of the notes that I jotted as I read Dr. Noakes book, and that we discuss in more detail, include:

-Your body will tell you what it needs. Just listen.

-Drink ad libitum, according to the dictates of thirst.

-No studies have ever shown that dehydration contributes in any way to any illnesses associated with prolonged exercise like marathons, triathlons, cycling events or ultra-runs.

-There is zero need to increase your habitual daily sodium intake above that dictated by your appetite.

-There is no need to ingest additional sodium during exercise.

-Much of what you believe about your personal well-being is the result of targeted manipulations by industries who principal focus is their commercial fitness and not necessarily your health and safety.

I highly recommend you read Waterlogged if you want to really delve into the detailed studies and science behind how much water to drink, and how we've been lied to and misled by faulty research.

Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below.

35 thoughts on “How You’re Being Manipulated By The Sports Drink Industry And What You Can Do About It.

  1. Water is very beneficial for fitness exercises. Water before activity and water after activity is recommended by my chiropractor sydney on where water is also key before my physical therapy.

  2. Great podcast Ben and many thanks to both you and Prof. Noakes for the very informative interview.

    I very much wanted to follow up this interview and share a link with you all in relation to Prof. Tim Noakes’ discussion. Speaking from the UK with the Olympics just now less than a week away here in London, a recent televised programme was broadcast that coincides significantly with the comments mentioned, specifically regarding the truth about sports products. Investigating sports products that promise to boost performance and tests the science behind the bold advertising claims made by some of sport’s biggest brands. Dr Noakes also features stating the importance of fluid balance:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01l1yxk/Panorama_The_Truth_About_Sports_Products/

  3. I'm fairly new to listening to your podcasts Ben, but I thought this was a really interesting piece. I am a college athlete (not a marathon runner however) and I must admit that I consume a great deal of Gatorade during/after workouts and competitions.

    After listening, a few things come to mind. Like people have asked, am I wasting my time with buying Gatorade? Is there something that I do need to replenish my body that Gatorade provides (or doesn't provide)? If I were to have only a few necessary ingredients in a recovery/sports drink, what would they be?

    Looking forward to hearing more!

    1. Yes, you're wasting money on Gatorade unless you're just doing it for the carbs, in which case it makes sense in SOME situations, but typically only where attrition in the absence of fuel is an issue (i.e. 2+ hour workouts). Ideal sports drink is just some sugar and flavoring. I'm personally a fan of coconut water. There's a company called "Greater Than" that makes a decent sugar water if you just need calories. I personally don't really eat during exercise because I like to stay fat adapted. I just do some coconut milk and protein powder pre workout, about 400 calories or so, and that can keep me going for 3-4 hours.

  4. Great podcast, as usual. I am racing a hot 70.3 this weekend and am traveling from a much colder climate. Given that the race is so close and I haven't "practiced" with water only, how would you recommend I hydrate for the race?

  5. I'm glad I heard this podcast because Tuesday and Thursday nights are my double weight training/kickboxing class workout nights. I pretty much stop drinking water for the day about an hour before I head to the gym. I'll carry around a water bottle all night, but I'll maybe take no more than a few sips the whole night because I hate to have to go to the bathroom!! I usually go home with nearly the full bottle of water and I always feel fine.
    If I drink too much water, I feel like I'm running to the restroom all night and not working out.
    Good to know that I'm not causing myself any harm and am doing fine by not pounding down water all night!

  6. A couple follow up questions:
    In both water interviews with Noakes, you use sodium, salt, and electrolytes interchangeably. Sodium is present in salt and electrolytes, but there are other minerals and ions that come from salt and electrolytes. Are these also in excess in the body or necessary for endurance athletes?
    I find that I crave very little water most of the time, but I always crave salt. However, this seems to contradict Noakes’ dogmas to listen to my body and to minimize sodium intake.

  7. so is the deal that we have conditioned ourselves to "need" these fluids, carbohydrates and sodium and need to wean ourselves off? I definitely notice a difference/decrease in performance when not trying to replace what I am losing/burning during exercise. I don't try to replace 1:1 but i do try to pay attention to the 2% rule. What is the period of time that we need to de-condition ourselves?

  8. It comes as no surprise that we are being manipulated by the sports drink industry. Aren't we constantly being manipulated by big agribusiness all the time?

  9. Great podcast…. I have a very heavy sweat rate and am nervous for IM NYC in august in the heat. I was one of those people who would have oveeerrr hydrydated during the race adn I hate to think what might have happened. SO A BIG TY! So do I need to take anything during a very hot race? Also any advice on how to keep your body from overheating (heat stroke) during a race- since I thought water was the answer?

    1. Well, you still need to "drinnk to thirst", but no electrolytes are needed, and there's no correlation between what you drink and your core temperature. I'd focus on ice and water dumped on head and down shirt at every aid station!

  10. This interview briefly touched on the tragic death in the Safari at the end. This interview commented that a paddler is "not really doing hard work when you're canoeing". It's apparent that he does not know what's involved with the Texas Water Safari. The Texas heat, the numerous portages requiring the racers to physically carry or drag their boat fully loaded with supplies through wooded areas and log jams on top of the fact that it's a race, all adds up to very hard work.

  11. Wow, what a real eye opener, Great interview Ben. I guess that means I can stop popping Salt tablets during races now.

  12. Interesting podcast. I completely understand the problem of drinking too much water, howerever, What i still dont quite understand is how you become hyponatremic drinking isotonic sports drinks?

    Also if there is no need to supplement with any electrolyes in a 1 day event, is there any benefit to drinking a sports drink rather than water (other than calories/psychological boost of the sugars). Should we be sticking to dilute sugar water and saving money?

    1. Isotonic sports drinks are still diluted. They'd have to be so salty as to be unpalatable for you to avoid hyponatremia if you drink them to the level of current sports drink recommendations (avoiding 2% weight loss). There is no benefit to doing a sports drink vs. doing sugar water. I personally just do plain water and gels.

  13. "No studies have ever shown that dehydration contributes in any way to any illnesses associated with prolonged exercise like marathons, triathlons, cycling events or ultra-runs." this is not exactly true.
    he may or may not have mentioned this (I have not listened yet) but, I have a chronic illness directly tied to dehydration during training and racing. I was diagnosed with ischemic colitis 4 years ago following a marathon. While ischemic colitis comes and goes (unlike ulcerative) it is not uncommon among endurance athletes, and is directly tied dehydration which cuts off blood supply to the colon. While I am with you that there is a ton of hype and bunk in selling us useless products when water would do just fine, for those with my illness, products with electrolytes even in a shorter event mean the difference between a severe episode of IC, or not being able to run at all. also– while sometimes hard to find, this is an illness covered in the medical literature (check the med line scientific journal database).

    1. Dr. Noakes response:

      I am aware of another Australian Ironman triathlete who also developed
      this condition – it was widely reported and I included the story in the
      original Waterlogged manuscript but the story did not make it into the
      final published version. The irony was that that athlete subsequently
      was advised (by the sports drink company that saw opportunity in his
      story) to drink much more during a subsequent Ironman. He did,
      performed very poorly and developed the symptoms of exercise-associated
      hyponatremia. He has since retired from the sport. Interestingly it
      was subsequently found that he had a "hole" in his heart. This could
      have allowed a blood clot to travel from his leg veins to lodge in the
      the arteries supplying his bowel causing the problem.

      The point is that dehydration alone will not cause ischemic colitis – if
      it did the condition would occur frequently to all who drink little or
      nothing during exercise. The condition would have been described
      frequently in endurance athletes from 1880 to 1969 when they were
      advised to avoid drinking during exercise. The infrequency of the
      condition indicates that dehydration alone does not cause the condition
      – there must be another predisposing factor present in those with the
      condition.

      The problem has always been that because athletes become "dehydrated"
      during exercise, then it does not take a genius to conclude that
      "dehydration" is the cause of all problems that occur in athletes during
      exercise. But because two events occur at the same time, does not mean
      that they are causally related. My book tries to show that humans
      evolved to cope with "dehydration". If we had not, we would not have
      survived as we are today.

      In your case I would want to understand what is the underlying condition
      that has been diagnosed as ischemic colitis in you. Patients with
      ischemic colitis due to arterial disease (atherosclerosis) have a very
      poor life expectancy and poor quality of life. If you truly have
      ischemic colitis you should have more symptoms than just those that
      occur during exercise.

      Best wishes,

      Tim Noakes

  14. Much of what Dr Noakes talked about is relevant for events up to Ironman duration, say 17hrs max.

    Really interested to know the implications for electrolyte replacement in very long ultras ie more than 24hrs into multiday events.

    He says the body has approx 20g of sodium stored, so substantial sodium replacement WILL be needed in multiday races?

    1. I thought he mentioned this during out talk, but he says we max out around 4-6 days, depending on size and sweat sodium losses – so if you're getting past that point then yes, you'd need to be taking in salt. I personally would be using electrolytes if I were going any longer than a full day (i.e. Ironman)…

    2. I have some very close friends that are multisport (multiday) athletes and there is no problem with sodium. By day two, if anything can be eaten, it is promptly consumed, mind your fingers. My friend recently completed a five day event and tells of stopping at a pub on a cycle leg, one of the team gives a twenty to a man receiving a giant plate of chips (french fries) and taking it! Then the four of them inhaling the platter with a latte each. Back on the bikes in five minutes.

  15. Dr. Noakes just makes great sense. Loved his comment "there's no biological drive to overdrink, you must force yourself to do this." Race directors best pay attention here and lives can be saved! Thanks for giving Dr. Noakes the platform, Ben. Pray his new book takes off in popularity and impact.

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