Witness the difference between 2000 Larry Armstrong and 2015 Larry Armstrong. 2000 Larry Armstrong presented himself in the Wall Street Journal as an allegedly Gatorade-independent researcher. 2015 Larry Armstrong is now the incoming president of the American College of Sports Medicine, a long-time Gatorade beneficiary and advocate.
To Larry Armstrong, professor of environment and exercise physiology at the University of Connecticut and one of the few sports scientists not on the payroll of Gatorade, the new research is highly suspect. “I believe the vast majority of people do not exceed 50 minutes, so I would think the vast majority of people who use Gatorade don’t need it,” he says.
But Dr. Armstrong adds that he is reluctant to press the point for fear of offending his academic peers. “I have too many friends that deal with them,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does affect objectivity.”
Dr. Lon Kilgore has illustrated how Gatorade’s effect on “objectivity” takes place.
Now contrast that 2000 Armstrong statement with Armstrong’s quote in the Wall Street Journal in 2015:
“At the point that you sense thirst, your physical performance and cognitive function are beginning to decline,” says ACSM president-elect Lawrence Armstrong of the University of Connecticut.
He points to findings that even 1.5% dehydration can affect performance, and says that athletes should craft individual plans based on their rates of sweat loss and fluid intake per hour.
(The study Armstrong cites to support the idea that 1.5% dehydration affects performance has little relevance to the real world. Its subjects biked without drinking for an hour before testing. This is not representative of the gradual dehydration that endurance athletes experience while competing and drinking to thirst.)
Armstrong’s 2000 admission that Gatorade funding affects the objectivity of scientific research concurs with Dr. Tim Noakes’ book, Waterlogged, as well as the BMJ article “The Truth About Sports Drinks.” Armstrong’s admission is only remarkable due to its source.
What effect do Gatorade’s hydration campaigns have in the real world? A series of preventable deaths from Exercise Associated Hyponatremic Encephalopathy.
At this point, no one involved in the ACSM has any excuse for ignoring Gatorade’s effect on scientific objectivity. Their own president-elect admitted it.
So what’s next? ACSM has an ethical responsibility to correct the Gatorade-spread hydration myths that have taken the lives of over a dozen athletes. Else the ACSM will have to face the fact that its own president implied it has lost objectivity.
ACSM can not act to prevent further deaths from hyper-hydration and hyponatremia as long as it maintains a relationship with Gatorade, a company that tells athletes they do “not have to concern him or herself with hyponatremia too much.”