Sports drinks like Gatorade have always been prominent in athletics due to a belief they replenish electrolytes and perhaps metabolize more efficiently than plain old water, but new research has cast the sugary beverages in a slightly less flattering light.
Sports drinks are certainly appealing when you’ve been working out, but a study out of Europe indicates that the drinks are not only not likely to perform any essential functions over plain old water, but they also may be a detrimental factor when considering the amount of sugar and other unsavory ingredients they contain.
A joint effort between the BBC’s Panorama and the British Medical Journal found claims such as British sports drink Lucozade’s assertion the beverage is “an isotonic performance fuel to take you faster, stronger, for longer” may, shockingly, not pan out scientifically.
A team of researchers at the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine led by Dr. Carl Heneghan looked at 431 claims in 104 sports drink ads and found that a “worrying” level of misinformation was being disseminated about the supposed abilities of sports drinks in relation to working out.
Dr. Henegan says the team at Oxford were able to look at 101 studies, concluding that no evidence existed to support many claims made in sports drink ads. The BBC quoted him as saying:
“In this case, the quality of the evidence is poor, the size of the effect is often minuscule and it certainly doesn’t apply to the population at large who are buying these products… Basically, when you look at the evidence in the general population, it does not say that exercise is improved [or that] performance is improved by carbohydrate drinks.”
Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has addressed the research, countering that research supports ad claims made about Lucozade and similar beverages:
“Over 40 years of research experience and 85 peer-reviewed studies have supported the development of Lucozade Sport and all our claims are based on scientific evidence that have been reviewed and substantiated by the European Food Safety Authority.”
Supplements, sneakers and protein-based beverages were also poorly reflected upon in the sports drink research.