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NSCA Conference 2005

Lead Gatorade inventor, Robert Cade

... continuing on with the story of how I learned about hydration and its effects, or lack thereof, on performance... in my last post, I'd discovered that there could be a few untruths in the messaging we were receiving from scientific organisations and related industry. In July 2005, I happened to be conferencing in Las Vegas at the National Strength and Conditioning Conference shortly after my learning, and decided to attend a Gatorade-sponsored presentation by a fella named Dr Randy Eichner titled “Rhabdomyolysis and muscle cramping”. Now this presentation was held in one of the largest rooms in the venue and had well over a thousand Strength and Conditioning practitioners in attendance. The majority of the attendees were probably people with degrees or diplomas in the Sport Sciences, including S&C coaches and personal/physical trainers, but undoubtedly all individuals that prescribe exercise advice directly to their clients. So the presentation begins, and Randy is introduced as a Professor of Medicine, a Sports Medicine Intern for a college football team, and being on the board of directors for the prestigious Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Thus, the audience is primed from the get-go to believe that this man must really know his stuff. Unfortunately, what Randy delivered was nothing less than an infomercial of untruths aimed at making the audience believe that drinking Gatorade will do everything but cure Cancer. It truly was remarkable. Following the conference, I wrote a letter to the editor at the NSCA's Strength and Conditioning Journal but it was not deemed worthy of publication. And to be honest, after a decade of experience since, it isn't worthy of publication in its current form. But as we know, you can get feedback on articles from reviewers and editors to alter the tone, remove, change, etc. But my article probably is not something you want to publish about a funder of your conference.... glancing at the letter shows the emotion I felt at that time.

Back then, challenges to the hydration dogma weren't the norm. The hydration myths, to drink to prevent body mass loss, were the accepted facts at that time. So on that day, I was the only person that stood up at question time to challenge. But Randy was great at sales, and good at making my points seem small, admitting that the area was perhaps a bit controversial. But the damage had been done - the message that day was delivered. Perhaps what was most amazing to me at the time, was the confusion I felt. Weren't scientific conferences about sharing science and furthering understanding? My young naivety, but nevertheless it bothered me. I felt science was purer than that. Of course, now we know how things work in the field of most sport science conferences.

Now to bring things to present day in this post, I have to applaud the organisers of the recent INSEP Heat Conference in Paris. The GSSI folk were not invited. It was about translating the science to practice as best each presenter could. In contrast, the Malmo ECSS organisers I spoke to were saddened by the fact that their conference must be mostly funded by the GSSI in return for the advertising and associated presentations. Without their funding, ECSS could not afford to run the conference. This begs the question. Can we ever return to relatively unbiased (free of industry) sport science conferences? Could the ECSS congress be funded instead by EU universities? Obviously ACSM is a lost cause, but could the ECSS be progressive enough to move forward with such an initiative? Are there other solutions to get rid of these guys? In my next post, I'll tell you how Randy's NSCA presentation turned up the fire in my belly, got me thinking and collaborating, and I'll walk you through the cool study we performed to make a start at answering some hydration questions we had. Of course at the time, the results blew our mind....

So anyway, I approached Randy afterwards in the hall to question his motive – how he could call himself a scientist or medical practitioner? Surely he must have been aware of some of the new findings coming out. As told here by Tim Noakes in his book Waterlogged, maybe he didn't know that much, or maybe he did and didn't care. Regardless, I continued to hammer the point home and questioned his motive. When I asked him how much Gatorade was paying him for his talk, he angrily stated: “None of your business”, and walked off....

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