You’re probably most interested in how Gatorade gamed us all in the amount of fluid with sodium and carbohydrate we all need so we wouldn’t get dehydrated.

IMG_6312.JPGWhen I learned how Gatorade influenced the science and those scientists after reading Dr. Tim Noakes book, Waterlogged; The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports, I was shocked. It supported my belief of just follow the money and you’ll be lead to the real truth and cause of most problems in the world.

Gatorade Fraud?

While perhaps the word “fraud” may be overstated, I feel that much of what they did to promote their product was. Gatorade was invented by Dr. Robert Cade in 1965 based upon the problems with the University of Florida’s freshmen football team who were having issues with the Florida heat and humidity, or many thought was the problem anyway. Dr. Cade believed their problems could be solved with more water, and the addition of glucose and sodium.

In short, after inventing and using the product with some success with the freshmen team, the varsity program agreed to begin to use it too. The next season the varsity had a decent year with many wins coming in the second half of the games.  They were  invited to a bowl where they won in the second half and Gatorade was touted as the “miracle” weapon. With that Gatorade was on the map. Dr. Cade went on to say later that, “If we had lost, you probably never would have heard of Gatorade again.”

In the 1966 season the Gators when 8-2 and many thought it was the best Gator team in history. Many thought it was due to Gatorade. Yet what people don’t realize is they had a Heisman Trophy quarterback named Steve O. Spurrier. He was known for his comebacks that season. When asked about Gatorade Steve Spurrier said, “I don’t have any answer for whether the Gatorade helped us be a better second-half team or not. We drank it, but whether it helped us in the second-half, who knows.”

Dr. Cade eventually sold the rights to Gatorade to Stokely-Van Camp to market the product nationally on 16 May, 1967.

Now gaming the process begins.

Reading the book Dr. Noakes goes into great detail of all the flaws in the research that seemingly proved why Gatorade worked. The biggest fraud, in my opinion, was a study used by the ACSM (American College for Sport’s Medicine), who is heavily funded by Gatorade, under less than objective research, using elite athletes training at high intensities in high heat to derive at a standard with which all athletes should drink. According the Dr. Noakes book,

As a result, the 1996 Position Stand on Exercise and Fluid Replacement [by the ACSM] included the following: “During exercise, athletes should start drinking early and at regular intervals in an attempt to consume fluids at a rate sufficient to replace all the water lost through sweating (i.e., body weight loss) or consume the maximal amount that can be tolerated” [Dr. Noakes emphasis]. It was proposed that this rate could be 600 to 1200 ml/hr, and the solution should contain 4% to 8% carbohydrate and, for exercise lasting more than 1 hour, approximately 0.5 to 0.7 g of sodium chloride (9 to 12 mmol) per L of water.”

Noakes, Tim. Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports (Kindle Locations 6294-6297). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.

You can imagine how Gatorade jumped on this guideline to sell more Gatorade? They had actually used the 1.2 l/hour in their marketing material causing athletes to even drink this amount in cold temperatures and by back of the pack athletes. Listen to Dr. Noakes interview below.

Death by Hyponatremia (EAH)

Hyponatremia is the basically water intoxication. It means to much water was drank and can be fatal if not treated properly.

After the 1996 guidelines were published all the literature started to suggest “drink ahead of dehydration” to all the endurance athletes running marathons, long-distance events and Ironman Triathlon.

Then stuff started to happen. The prevalence of athletes with EAH increased marketably. Many athletes died. Those health care professionals in medical tents of these events thought the athletes hadn’t drank enough. Afterall, the hype was on making sure everyone drank ahead of dehydration.  They would check sodium levels and they showed athletes with reduced levels. They would then treat them with an IV with more fluid, in effect swelling their brains more and they would die.

Why would sodium levels be reduced? It’s simple. The amount of sodium in their bodies was more than sufficient yet because fluid levels were greater than the norm, the denominator in the equation, Sodium ÷ Fluid Levels, suggested sodium was low and thus the athlete was dehydrated.

Unfortunately Dr. Noakes, a marathon runner himself, message was not heeded soon enough. Yet, with deep compassion for the deceased athletes, he didn’t quit trying. His book is a tribute to them and the science of hydration that Gatorade didn’t care about as long as more of their product was sold.

In time even the ACSP changed their stance [it’s amazing how they changed when it was proven they had blood on their hands].

The Truth About Hydration

From extensive research done by Dr. Noakes and others, drinking guidelines have changed. Dr. Noakes goes into detail about the history of runners, explaining that hunters in the African hot and dry desert would run for days to exhaust an animal to capture it for food, all without water or sodium. He goes into the history of the marathon where before 1977 it was thought best to not drink at all. There have been several Olympic Gold Medalist in the marathon that did not drink the entire event including world record performances.

The truth is we need far less hydration than what most think. In fact, according to Dr. Noakes, the only symptom of dehydration is thirst. That’s it.

The new guideline is “follow your thirst.” Drink only to quench your thirst. 

That’s it. Trust your body’s thirst mechanism and drink when you are thirsty.

Now the following guidelines are published and used by the medical directors of races throughout the world.

The guidelines are:

  •  Athletes should drink to thirst during the race and not more than 800 ml/hr. (A standard water bottle is 20 oz. or 600 ml.)
  • Athletes who collapse during exercise have one or more serious medical conditions and must be treated by the appropriate medical experts, knowledgeable in the management of these conditions in nonathletic populations.
  • In contrast, the majority of athletes who collapse after exercise have EAPH and require no treatment other than to recover while lying supine with the head below the level of the heart and pelvis.
  • The two most likely exercise-related causes of collapse during exercise are heatstroke and EAHE. They are differentiated by measuring the rectal temperature and the blood sodium concentration. Heatstroke is treated by immersion in a bath of ice-cold water, whereas EAHE is treated with concentrated (hypertonic) saline solutions and diuretics.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy must be “earned” and may not be given unless measurement of the athlete’s blood sodium concentration indicates that he or she has an elevated level (hypernatremia). However, there are very few indications for the use of intravenous fluids in collapsed marathon runners.

EAHE; Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia

EAPH: experienced postural hypotension (that’s where after a race your blood rushes from your brain to the working legs.)

Source: Noakes, Tim. Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports (Kindle Locations 9249-9250). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.

The Truth About Sodium

The whole debate started with the premise that cramping was caused by a lack of sodium. There were several published studies that seem to support this conclusion. However, Dr. Noakes dispels their science with the flaws found in their research.

In several studies has shown that blood sodium concentrations always rose during exercise. If blood sodium concentrations always rose during exercise then sodium probably wasn’t the cause of cramping.

But Gatorade research showed you needed it. Or was that science flawed too. Dr. Noakes answers that question by pointing out that Dr. Cade used several erroneous published papers that had been used for decades. Those findings has since proved false.

In Dr. Noakes book, he states, “A series of studies in Israel have led to the conclusion that it is impossible to develop a state of sodium deficiency in free-living individuals who have access to as much salt as their taste dictates.”

Dr. Noakes summary of sodium states,

  • Evidence simply does not exist that recreational or professional athletes competing in long-duration events will inevitably develop a state of salt deficiency or dehydration. By adjusting fluid volume, the human body regulates osmolality within a narrow range: The NaCl concentration of the ECF is always 135 to 145 mmol/L.
  • It is impossible for healthy humans, whether non-exercising or exercising, to become salt deficient when they have free access to dietary salt. Since our bodies are designed by our evolutionary history to defend against a sodium deficiency even when ingesting only a fraction of the sodium present in the modern Western diet, as shown by the research presented in this chapter, sodium deficiency is an unproven and highly improbable cause of exercise-associated muscle cramps or heat illness.

Dr. Noakes Suggestions on Hydration and Sodium


After reading Dr. Noakes’ book,

  • I now only drink to thirst during the day and when I exercise. I’ve noticed I drink less than before when I would always drink at least 600 ml/hour (or slightly more on occasion) during exercise.
  • I used to fill up a jug with ounces of water equal to 1/2 my body weight in pounds. After following the “drink to thirst” recommendation, now on some days I drink perhaps 20 oz under that amount and some days a little more.
  • I’ve not been adding any sodium while I train after reading the book. Before reading the science I used to add 300 mg per hour. I’ve not experienced any detrimental effect in the two weeks I’ve followed this new protocol. I have never cramped except as a high school athlete (1971 to 1974) and always at home and not playing sports. That’s not to say that’s right for everyone. Because I’m on a ketogenic diet I’m following the advice of Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and I’ve added an extra 1 gram of sodium in my diet and 30 minutes before exercise I ingest 1/2 a bullion cube that contains the 1 gram. I ingest at least twice the amount of sodium as recommend by all the health experts, supporting the Israel study. I get enough sodium in my diet.

About the Author Michael Lantz (Big Papa)

The Wellness Warrior™; Health & Leadership/Business Coach, Speaker, Blogger, Author, Ironman Triathlete Helping others live with more health and joy, paying for their dreams and make a difference in the world! Learn more:

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