The [question] that I really got involved with in the 1980s was: Should we drinking more or less during exercise?
…In the 1960s, it was held that if you drank that actually if you drank during exercise, that wasn’t a very good idea. And Abebe Bikila, who was the first African runner to win two Olympic gold medals in the 1960 and the 1964 Olympic marathons, he ran both races without drinking anything.That was what runners did those days.
Then, all of a sudden, in the 1960s and 1970s, things changed and we were told that if you didn’t drink enough, you were going to die during exercise.
…In 1981, on the first of June, 1981, an athlete started the Comrades Marathon in Bourbon and she reached 70 km and her husband withdrew her from the race because she didn’t recognize him…within two hours, she was unconscious having epileptic seizures and she had to be taken to a hospital in Bourbon. And when she was admitted to hospital, she became the first case of this condition: [exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy (EAHE)]… Her chest X-ray [showed] that [she had] fluid in her lungs and it took five days later before the fluid had gone out of her lungs.
…Over the next four or five years, we picked up a couple more cases and worked out that they had probably overdrunk and that — in other words — they’d [drank] too much during exercise … So the more you overdrink, the lower your sodium, and the sicker you were. And we published that in 1991, and thought, “That’s the end of the problem. We cured the problem. We know what causes it: it’s overdrinking.”
And we thought the problem would go away. But, unfortunately, at the same time that we were doing that, industry had come along and said, “No, actually, the more you drink, the better.”
…And we predicted what would happen. We predicted this would happen: The accumulative incidence of this condition, which had never existed before 1981, never existed — there were a total of 1,600 cases in the medical literature…and, tragically, 12 deaths. All completely avoidable.
And so what happened was that the sports drink industry came along and then they influenced the official drinking guidelines drawn up by official bodies. And those promoted overdrinking.
Then a lady died in the Boston Marathon in 2002, and in 2003 I was invited by two organizations to produce alternate drinking guidelines, which promoted drinking to thirst, and that finally has now been accepted that that is the way we should be drinking.
…The “science of hydration” is utterly bogus. There is no science to it. It was dreamed up by marketers to sell a product.
For more of Dr. Noakes’s research into health and exercise claims, watch his entire talk “Challenging the myths of good health” below: