How true is this statement?
“Water is not the best fluid for rehydration, either during or after exercise.22“
Do you agree?
So not too long ago we talked about gels, which are a really popular “food” item for many of us athletes. At almost exactly the same time, The British Medical Journal released an article detailing its investigation of the sports drink industry. This report then gained momentum within the press, mostly from respected Boston magazine, The Atlantic, which published a quick-and-dirty summary of the BMJ article (which is rather long, but I nonetheless found it pretty riveting as scientific journals go). But that’s not all. The BMJ has also investigated the sports food industry as a whole–The Forbes’ healthcare blog has an enthusiastic run-down of 7 different articles.
The gist is this: we as consumers have very likely been lied to. A lot.
All the science that says sports drinks are better than water and gels are better than food… all that science is paid for by the companies that make these items. In America, at least, we’re so jaded by constant corporate corruption that this probably comes as no surprise, but it does nonetheless beg the question, should we be putting this stuff in our bodies?
For me, the article popped up in my in-box (courtesy of my dear sister) on the heels of my deciding to make a big change in my diet. More specifically, I’m doing a modified version of Low-Fat Raw Veganism and decided to base most of my summer diet on raw fruit and vegetables (more on that another time), with a couple balanced vegan meals a day. I have a lot of weird rules and I break them all every once in a while, but the biggest and the one I adhere to most is avoiding highly processed stuff.
I feel fantastic.
(Well not today, since last night I had an Ice-Cream and Guinness float. It was delicious, but UGH, I feel like CRAP! Which just goes to prove my point; I feel like crap because I surrendered to peer pressure and made an educated bad food choice!)
So if we all know that eating overprocessed food is not good for us, why as athletes, as people who care about our bodies, are we chugging Gatorade and its ilk instead of water? And if your answer has something to do with Gatorade’s superior ability to hydrate us, I will point you directly to the BMJ article above. Once you have read it through I dare you to say with a straight face that there is any trustworthy science that proves your point.
In a post on the NPR Food Blog (it’s called Salt so it must be awesome) “Some Athletes Reject High-Tech Sports Fuel In Favor Of Real Food,” Alastair Bland cites a variety of sources including pro athletes, coaches and nurtritionists that maintain nutrition is always better if you can get it from food. I’m inclined to agree with them.
As an advocate of fruit and veg consumption I’m inclined to ask why we even bother with the “empty” goo calories when we could just opt for a banana or some blueberries or an orange?
Oh look, the NPR article has a post-publication update at the bottom:
UPDATE: After this article was published, one of GU Energy’s lead scientists, Brent Mann, explained to us via email that food in “gel form better facilitates energy delivery to working muscles because it requires very little digestion.” He says natural solid foods can cause stomach aches and bloating if eaten during a hard workout.
I wonder what the BMJ would say about Brent Mann’s ideas? Maybe that he should quit his job at GU and do some serious, scientifically valid research on the topic? ‘Cause that’s the only way I’m going to believe him, especially since GU is nearly impossible for me to choke down without retching and feeling like I may vomit, whereas a big chunk of watermelon tastes like heaven during a run.
I am done with Gatorade and Powerade. I am done with GU and beans and blocks and gummies and all of it. I’m choosing food and water.
I submit, for your discussion, that sports drinks and gels are just not things we should be putting in our bodies. What do you think?
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