Irish consumers spend ¤27 million on sports drinks every year. They are endorsed by our biggest sports stars and the link between athletic excellence and the consumption of sports drinks has become fixed in the public mind.
Sports drinks manufacturers say their claims are verified by the European Food Safety Authority who after reviewing various scientific studies about sports drinks agreed that they can help during endurance exercise.
The major sports drinks brands claims are specific to people performing endurance exercise but they have a strong marketing and sponsorship association with team sports. So do these claims stack up for the average athlete? The Consumer Show decided to put them to the test.
DCU's Prof. Niall Moyna, one of Ireland's leading sports scientists, drafted in players from DCU's GAA football team to help us establish if sports drinks really do help improve their performance.
The experiment which replicated the activity levels of GAA football match showed no difference in performance between drinking water and drinking a sports drink.
The Consumer Show experiment indicates sports drinks don't help during team sports yet many of our major sporting organisations -including the IRFU, the FAI, and the Gaelic Players Association - all accept sponsorship from sports drinks companies.
These organisations all say sponsorship is an important source of income to fund and promote sports programmes but could sports drinks companies make it clearer for consumers about who benefits from their drinks.
When contacted by The Consumer Show, the sports drinks companies responded by stating that their products were not marketed at children and that there are a range of products available to meet the varying requirements of different kinds of exercise.
Declan Jackson, Head of Communications for the Beverage Council of Ireland, told Keelin Shanley that the European Food Safety Authority found sports drinks were very effective in promoting hydration, and also in maintaining endurance performance. When questioned about the marketing of these sports drinks to children, Declan argued that these drinks are not targeted to children, and that the companies who produce the sports drinks abide by all of the regulations governing the advertising of these products. The Beverage Council of Ireland also has its own voluntary code which manufacturers and distributors subscribe to.
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