I think one of the biggest problems of the fitness industry is sports and recovery drinks. Coincidently, sports and recovery drinks accounted for $3.9 billion in sales in 2010 and continue to increase. It’s no wonder that the soft drink manufacturers want to get in on the action. But in many respects they are selling products that most consumers don’t need, and will in fact harm them.
Part of the problem arises with our definition of “athlete.” “Athletes” need sports drinks to achieve top performance, the University of Florida showed us that. “Athletes” need recovery products to kickstart the muscle building process, bodybuilders have known this for years. But these cases reflected the needs of pro-football players, and people pushing their bodies to the very limit of performance.
The term “athlete” now refers to anyone who does anything physical. Just watch a sport on TV and keep an eye out for the sports drink ads. Are these companies spending millions on advertising to reach the 0.1% of the population at the peak of physical fitness? Are NFL football players recording the games they missed on their DVRs, then watching them later in the week thinking, “I bet I wouldn’t have missed that pass if I was drinking that!” The sports drink industry wants every armchair quarterback to think that they need 20oz of electrolyte drink after they mow the lawn. That’s what makes $3.9 billion.
So now we have a generation of active, informed adults who are doing exactly the right things to get in shape, then eliminating all their gains with their choice in recovery drink. They don’t need a 20oz sports drink and a protein shake to recover from an hour long trip to the gym, they need a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk!
I understand there are barriers to making real food part of a recovery plan. Almost all of my workouts end with me going back to work, so I can’t exactly grill a lean chicken breast to eat. But I can take dried fruit in my lunch instead of an energy bar. I can buy a small carton of milk at the cafeteria (granted I have to dig deep into the refrigerator display to find it). And I can pay attention to what advertisers are telling me. Good products sell themselves and don’t need the hype. When it comes to my fitness, I’m pretty sure the soft drink giants don’t have my best interests in mind.