Me, sport and sugar

I grew up in New Zealand, in a loving family, with plenty of outdoor space to roam around in, and plenty of sport to play. Oranges at half time in soccer were the nutritional order of the day. I enjoyed my cross country running, after which I would quench my thirst from my favourite yellow flask.

Raro
My post-cross country flask

Sometimes, “Raro” powder would be added for some flavour. You can still buy this.

Raro-Sachet-Navel-Orange
Credit: Countdown supermarket

Then, with the increasing professionalisation and “scientisation” of sport and exercise, came an increasing prominence of sports drinks. In New Zealand, it was Powerade. In the 2000’s I was into my long distance running and triathlons so I was guzzling about 3 of these a week for many years (and they weren’t cheap!).

Powerade
My favourite Powerade and my cool brother Ol

We were told Powerade was “isotonic” and could rehydrate you for optimal performance. I always assumed it made a little bit of a difference, but to be honest, apart from the nice taste, I never felt quantitatively better for it. I wonder if I was supposed to be able to feel a difference after drinking it.

Powerade 2
A rough guess at my lifetime Powerade consumption – around 400 bottles. (Photo credit @paintchitownred)

In hindsight, was all that sugar worth it? In terms of performance, I suspect the differences were marginal at best. See this British Medical Journal report for more interesting analysis of the questionable promotion of sports drinks.

More broadly, with sugar-food companies dominating sports events with their branding and products, I wonder about the role of sport managers (and sport management academics) in this nexus. I wonder what role sport management has to play in this apparent health problem of over-consumption. What trade offs are made between “professional practice” and health enhancing practice? How should sport management practitioners negotiate this increasingly tricky situation? There does not appear to be any Codes of Ethics on sites such as the European Association of Sport Management or the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Here is a Code from the North American Society of Sport Management. While well-intentioned, I wonder how some of these ideals are put into practice, particularly when researchers try to find ways to enhance brand identities and increase revenue for sponsors. For example, point “S” states that “The sport manager should promote the general welfare of society.” I wonder to what extent sport managers consider their associations with companies that sell calorie-rich, but nutrient-poor food.

Joe P

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