As a professional footballer, we’re encouraged to consume sports drinks to aid recovery and remain hydrated. It’s just one of those things you become familiar with, so when I came across an article in The Week last week labelled ‘Are sports drinks a waste of money’ it triggered some thought.
I began reading up on some of the leading brands, initially out of curiosity, but I was soon concerned with what I was reading.
It’s a £1bn annual business, so you’d imagine the likes of Lucozade, who supply most of the Premier teams were supplying a product that provided “an isotonic performance fuel to make you faster, stronger, for longer” as they advertise. Yet according to Dr Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford, the evidence to support this claim isn’t as concrete as promoted.
Stories such as this are used everyday to fill the news “a glass of red wine a day helps fight cancer”, but rather than just ignoring this filler, I became further intrigued. It was revealed that Dr Heneghan was due to assess 176 studies confirming sports drinks had scientifically proven to work, however he managed 101 before concluding, “the quality of evidence is poor, the size of the effect is often miniscule and it certainly doesn’t apply to the population at large who are buying these products”.
Although some products grant athletes a “physical edge”, morphing into a superhuman isn’t realistically achievable from a 500ml serving of glucose, but the branding and advertising cunningly persuade the consumer otherwise. But who’s to blame for this, should the Advertising Standards Agency target those who offer such products? Need more testing be done before a product can be advertised this way?
There’s no clear evidence to suggest they enhance performance, yet dangerous quantities of salt and sugar is enough to remind consumers that these products may be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing.
If it’s rehydration you’re after look no further than coconut water, obviously this isn’t everyone’s tipple, so just grab bottle of pure clean water and a banana – simple and full potassium.
Are sports drinks a waste of money or am I being over cynical?