Thoughts on "The Truth about Sports Products" on BBC Panorama

Last week, BBC Panorama broadcast a very interesting investigation into the claims behind many of the sports products that we are encouraged to use in our pursuits - from high-tech shoes to performance and recovery drinks. If you are in the UK, you can access this via the Panorama website on the internet, but everyone can see this quick summary and video. The show has provoked some quite heated debate on internet fora, and some defensive media statements from companies associated with the production of these sports products - see GSK's statement here. The major points for me seemed to be:

  • For most people, performance and recovery drinks (e.g. Powerade etc) are pretty pointless - we don't exercise for long enough or intensely enough to warrant it. For people exercising over 60 minutes, it may be beneficial, but the evidence is pretty thin at best.
  • Forget drinking before you are thirsty. There are more dangers associated with drinking too much than too little. Drink when you are thirsty, and unless you are exercising for a long time, stick to water.
  • Again, unless you are an elite athlete, or undertaking some serious endurance activity, other supplements don't seem to have much evidence backing their use with the exception of creatine and caffeine. Stick to maintaining a well-balanced diet.
  • Don't fall for the marketing of running shoes - there is very little evidence that they help reduce risk of injury. Try some on, and if they feel comfortable, use those. Intensity and time exercising play a bigger role in predicting risk of injury. Focus on your running style and your kinetic chain if you want to improve your running and  / or minimize your risk of injury.
  • Buying cool stuff doesn't make you healthier, fitter or sexier. Eating well and exercising often might.

I tend not to take anything other than water if I am exercising for under 60 minutes. Once I know I will be exercising for more than 60 minutes, I start to take on a little fuel at 45 minutes onwards, and then repeat every 30-45 minutes. But that is for pretty long runs. It seems to work for me.

The most disturbing part of the show to me was the marketing to kids and the influence that seems to have. What did you think of the show?