The truth behind sports drinks

Rumors: Sports drinks are a must-have item for sports. They can not only efficiently replenish water, but also better promote electrolyte balance, supplement energy, prevent hyponatremia and water intoxication, and make athletes perform better. For non-athletes, sports drinks are also part of a healthy lifestyle. Sports drinks can make you healthier.

Truth: Sports drinks consist mainly of water, sugar (glucose, oligosaccharides, etc.) and sodium-potassium electrolytes. They are designed to supplement the water, electrolytes, and energy substances that athletes lose during competitions and training. Its greatest function is designed for athletes who perform intense, high-intensity sports. For ordinary people, sports drinks are not a healthy daily drink. On the contrary, it will also bring a series of health problems.

Does fluid rehydration = dehydration?

In fact, in the 1970s, marathoners also refused to drink water during the competition, fearing that it would affect performance. Until companies began to sponsor research by some scientists for exercise rehydration, their importance was only widely appreciated. Now, these scientists convey fears to athletes and ordinary people through the exertion of influence on sports medicine institutions - the danger of dehydration.

The greatest achievement of the sports drinks industry is that it has successfully shaken people's trust in thirst. Thirsty has long been considered a fairly well-established mechanism for finding and responding to dehydration. However, studies sponsored by sports and beverage companies have pointed out that this mechanism is inaccurate and unreliable, and relying on thirst may not completely compensate for lost body fluids. Therefore, "(athlete) should supplement 150 milliliters of liquid every 15 minutes even if not thirsty." Even the IOC's nutrition guidance manual for athletes (released in 2003 and updated in 2008) only emphasized the importance of hydration and prevention of dehydration, but did not mention "thirst" at one time.

Tim Knox, a professor of sports and sports at the University of Cape Town, said, "Dehydration is the normal physiological reaction of the body to exercise. When people lose water, they will become thirsty and will drink water. Then there is no more. The problem is Enterprises must increase their sales, so they can only say that the thirst mechanism is 'incapable'. Professor Knox should have a say in this regard. In the early 1980s, he worked with a sports beverage company in South America to develop a sports drink.

Moreover, modern athletic sports events can already provide athletes with very convenient services, including access to water at any time. Taking the marathon as an example, there are corresponding water stations along the way. Athletes can stop at any time for supplements according to their own needs. They do not have to suffer the pain of waterlessness in the desert.

Sports drinks help you maintain a good competitive state?

For athletes, the massive loss of body fluids may indeed have an impact on health and athletic performance, but it is controversial whether sports drinks, as advertised by sports drink companies, can better promote fluid and electrolyte supplementation.

A meta-analysis study from the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University pointed out: From the current research articles on sports drinks to improve athletic ability, there is a lack of high-quality research and research exists. With great bias, only three articles can be included in the analysis. It is very worrying to draw conclusions based on existing research. If you want to be convincing, you should conduct higher-quality research.

Some scholars have suggested that athletes' daily three-meal nutrition diet will be enough to supplement their electrolyte and energy consumption during training and competition. From this point of view, it is not necessary to use sports drinks to supplement the energy or electrolyte loss after training or competition. For the energy supplement during the competition or training interval, the appropriate amount of supplemental solid energy bars, candy bars, bananas, etc. can also achieve the corresponding purpose. This sports drink has no outstanding advantage.

For the most critical replenishment problem, sports drinks also seem to have no better effect than normal water. In modern sports, due to changes in the rules of the game, athletes can have sufficient time for liquid supplements. Therefore, what can really endanger the health of athletes in sports practice is hyponatremia caused by large amounts of drinking water and fever caused by high-temperature environment.

Studies have found that the occurrence of hyponatremia has nothing to do with the type of liquid supplement, but only with the amount of supplementation, which means that excessive sports drinks can also cause hyponatremia. At present, it is considered that the supplement of moisture should follow the needs of the body, feel thirsty, and properly drink some water (of course you can also drink sports drinks), which is enough. For fever in sports, the increase in core body temperature is more affected by the external environment (temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc.), regardless of what fluid you add.

Sports drinks make you healthier?

After successfully convincing athletes that what they drink during exercise is as important as peacetime training, the sports drinks industry has expanded its target sales crowd. They invest in advertising to the mass media. They also communicate the importance of rehydration and the insufficiency of bottled water to schools, parents and students through sports education.

Their strategy is very effective. Nowadays, non-athletes have become the largest consumer group of sports drinks. Many people who are not very active are treating sports drinks as a healthy lifestyle. An analysis from the Yale Food Policy and Obesity Research Center pointed out that a quarter of U.S. parents believe that sports drinks are healthy drinks for children.

However, all research provided by sports and beverage companies is aimed at people who maintain dense, high-intensity exercise habits. They did not seem to have considered that the vast majority of their consumer groups were just people who stayed in the gym for an average of 2 hours a week. This is why the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that electrolyte beverages containing carbohydrates (sports drinks) are only suitable for those physically active people who regularly perform high-intensity endurance exercise.

Researchers at Harvard University point out that a 500-ml bottle of sweet drink typically contains 3-14 tablespoons sugar (1 tablespoon about 4 grams of sugar). Eating more sugar means more energy intake. If other aspects are not controlled, it will increase health problems such as obesity, diabetes, dental caries and gout. The above analysis from Yale University confirmed that the increase in children’s consumption of sports drinks has “contributed” to their obesity.

Second, electrolyte sodium in sports drinks can also cause some health problems. According to China's standards, sodium content in sports drinks is generally 50-1200 mg/L. Like to drink sports drinks, it is bound to increase sodium intake. Excess sodium can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis.

Sports drinks should obviously not be consumed in large quantities as healthy drinks.

Phenomenon of science to be viewed as a sports drink endorsement

When sports and beverage companies sell their products, they all emphasize the scientific evidence behind the products. According to the British Medical Journal's systematic review of sports drinks, it has been found that related research generally has the following problems: insufficient sample size, low quality of research, manipulation of data (preferring positive results), and lack of double-blindness Test and so on. In the positional article on rehydration published by the American College of Sports Medicine, most editorial members stated their relationship with certain sports and beverage companies in the cooperation or funding relationship in the statement of conflict of interest at the end of the article.

In addition, due to the long-term relationship between the relevant agencies and well-known journals and magazines and the well-known sports and beverage companies, the study on negative reports on sports drinks is difficult to publish.

Conclusion: For those who maintain intensive, high-intensity exercise habits, as long as they feel thirsty, they will be replenished with adequate amounts of water to avoid a large amount of rehydration. Therefore, regardless of what they drink, they can prevent problems such as dehydration, hyponatremia, and water intoxication. Chocolate, bananas, etc. are not lost in sports drinks. Therefore, whether to choose sports drinks is only personal preference. For amateur sports enthusiasts or those who never exercise, sports drinks are by no means a healthy life.

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