Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat”: Based on a Lie

Google ChromeScreenSnapz1437If you’re like most people, you probably believe that dehydration causes heat stroke. But is there any evidence to support that idea? Or is it just a well-marketed myth? This spring, Gatorade’s American Football webinar made a shocking confession,

“And during intense exercise in the heat the risk of dehydration obviously can influence performance, but we also believe, although evidence has not shown, we believe it can increase the risk of exertional heat illnesses”

In other words, Gatorade finally confessed that there is no evidence that dehydration causes heat stroke, or other heat illnesses. Gatorade’s scientists also admitted that “thirst is a great guide for a person to have an overall indication of their hydration status.”

It was very striking to see Gatorade admit what Drs. Sandra Godek and Tim Noakes have stated for years. It’s too bad that two high school football players died in one month before Gatorade backed down from its hyperhydration science.

Gatorade tells high school athletes that its product will prevent heat stroke. There's no evidence for that myth.

Gatorade tells high school athletes that its product will prevent heat stroke. There’s no evidence for that myth.

In our last article on Gatorade’s hydration confessions, we mentioned,

Gatorade’s 2015 confession is not enough to make things right. A private webinar and an accompanying article can’t undo untold numbers of billboards and magazine ads

So will Gatorade’s multi-billion-dollar marketing campaign finally correct the record? Will Gatorade ever spend as much money to prevent hyper-hydration, as they spent promoting it? We now have an answer.

No. Gatorade will not adjust its advertising to match hydration science.

Check out this press release from Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” campaign. It states,

Research shows that dehydration or poor hydration increases the risk for heat illness.

If research actually does support Gatorade’s allegation, why did Gatorade’s own webinar say that “evidence has not shown” that dehydration increases the “risk for heat illness?”

The Gatorade press release cited one study to support its claim that dehydration increases the risk for heat illness. 

The study Gatorade’s press release cited does not show in any way that dehydration increases the risk for heat illness. The study’s experiment doesn’t even investigate that relationship. In fact, the study Gatorade cited contradicts the very reason Gatorade cited it. The study actually says,

The question remains whether improved indices of hydration status lower the risk of heat illness and enhance performance in young players

Gatorade’s hydration advertising has dangerously contradicted science before. But now Gatorade’s Beat the Heat Campaign is embarrassingly contradicting the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s own scientists.

How long will Gatorade hesitate before it corrects this self-contradiction? And will Gatorade finally correct its advertising, or will Gatorade tell its scientists to fall in line with its marketing campaign?

2 comments

  1. It is fair to call out Gatorade for ignoring the risk of excess liquid consumption.

    However I feel it is irresponsible for this blog to ignore the full statement made by webinar “we believe it can increase the risk of exertional heat illnesses.” Claiming that that dehydration is not associated with heat illness is just as dangerous as not mentioning excess drinking can be harmful.

    Few studies in support of not exercising dehydrated.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465265/
    Notably, for all players (n = 8), pre‐play (singles) USG (urine specific gravity) was strongly associated (r = 0.87; p = 0.005) with the players’ final TC (core body temperature) recorded at the end of singles play….

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838466/
    Intestinal temperature was greater for DYS(dehydrated) than for HYS(hydrated) postloop 2, postrun, and at 10 and 20 minutes postrun (all: P < .001). Intestinal temperature and heart rate were 0.22°C and 6 beats/min higher, respectively, for every additional 1% body mass loss during the DYS trial compared with the HYS trial.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3400060/
    There were 20 (4.4%) students whose ear temperature exceeded 38°C, 18 of whom did not consume water…. There is an increased risk for heat illness during outdoor activities in physical education class in primary school children, especially those who are overweight and have poor hydration status.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14715036
    Dehydration, with fluid loss occasionally as high as 6-10% of bodyweight, appears to be one of the most common risk factors for heat illness in patients exercising in the heat. Core body temperature has been shown to rise an additional 0.15-0.2 degrees C for every 1% of bodyweight lost to dehydration during exercise.

    • Russ Greene

      “Claiming that that dehydration is not associated with heat illness is just as dangerous as not mentioning excess drinking can be harmful.”

      My point is that I agree with the Gatorade webinar: there is no evidence that dehydration increases the risk of heat illness. I just wonder why Gatorade’s advertising contradicts what Gatorade’s own scientists say.

      As for the research you cited, please see this article on “Dehydration Myths” by Dr. Sandra Fawkes Godek: https://therussells.crossfit.com/2014/08/28/dehydration-myths-by-dr-sandra-fowkes-godek/

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