Nuun's Lizzy Moxey questions the branding on sports nutrition products
Britain is facing an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in ever younger people. As a society we are addicted to sugar. And it’s getting worse.
More and more everyday foods have added sugar - bread, ready meals, pasta sauces and breakfast cereals. And drinks. Not just cola drinks, but those labelled ‘sports drinks’ too.
The Food Standards Agency says we should eat no more than 60g (about 15 teaspoons) of sugar a day, but the UK average is already 20 teaspoons and climbing fast.
Even when, as a cyclist, you’re burning it off again, that doesn’t mean the sugar isn’t doing you any harm. A constant intake of sugar forces your pancreas to work overtime, possibly increasing your likelihood of type-2 diabetes in later life. And it can play havoc with your cholesterol levels, raising the risk for heart disease. Most worrying of all, a Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests drinking two or more sugary drinks a day can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by 90 per cent.
In 2006 the government banned high fat, salt and sugar products from advertising on television when children could be watching. This means you can no longer advertise cheese during the X-Factor, but the England football squad can adorn bottles of high-sugar sports drinks in every newsagent across the land.
Is it right that sports drinks continue to sponsor some of the world’s best athletes, yet the sugar levels in them could stock an episode of Great British Bake-Off? When will we acknowledge that calling a sugar filled drink a ‘sports’ drink is misleading people who associate the word ‘sports’ with ‘healthy’?
Ten years ago this month, we invented Nuun as the original sugar-free electrolyte tablet. By taking the sugar or “energy” out, we’ve separated hydration and nutrition. Now cyclists can drink to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Then make separate decisions about how much sugar to take on board.
Nuun wasn’t invented to perform better than high-sugar sports drinks, it was invented to be better - in terms of health and taste and convenience. Cyclists are still going to want to take on board sugars when they’re out on a ride. But by eating, not drinking, sugar, they should be able to avoid taking in more sugar than they need.
So we’re not going to argue that cyclists should suddenly embark on a crash, no-sugar diet. But paying more attention to how much sugar you eat could improve performance on the bike, as well as health in general. Using sugar-free hydration tablets like Nuun is a great place to start.