"The truth about sports products"

Panorama, tomorow (Thurs 19)

41 to 60 of 122 messages
20/07/2012 at 10:37

Like probably many of us on here research plays an important part in our jobs, whether you lead research projects, have to make changes because of research or simply have to read it.  The truth is it is extremely difficult for there not to be some bias.  For researchers to carry out a project they have to acquire knowledge of the subject and that will form some kind of opinion.  Most research will have positive and negative conclusions.  Panorama and Lucozade research will be no different.  It’s how you present those outcomes that give the bias and actually the same research will be presented in different ways for different audiences, so publicly some aspects will be highlighted, to the board and management staff of a company other aspects may be the drivers.  Most people do not read the detail in a report, they read the conclusions and/or recommendations.  In a previous job I have written some technical reports where the format expected for reports was that it started with an Executive Summary and I know that was all some people read, not the 50+ pages of research that followed it.

Last night did not really include anecdotal evidence.  Although this carries little evidential weight, when you are dealing with consumers it does provide important perspective.  Anecdotally I would say most experienced runners on here know they don’t need to worry too much about hydration and nutrition for runs under 10 miles, but do like the comfort of a gel or sports drink when running long.  I think most know the benefit of good shoes, though may be highly sceptical of the claims made in some of the adverts.

So probably the programme left as many questions as we would all have had before.

And they still didn’t tell you how many jelly babies to eat on a 2 hour run?

20/07/2012 at 10:44
NLR. It's a bit more complex than that but you're not far off. I would suggest that the cushioning effect of a new pair of trainers over an old pair has far more benefit.

However, I would suggest that a pair of motion control shoes is very much like a support on any injury. Provides additional support until the injury heals or the body addapts. Once this happens I would guess in the majority of cases you can move to neutral shoes. Hence the video during gait analysis is pretty useful.

Whether you need to spend ??130 on shies to go down the gym is another discussion.
20/07/2012 at 10:47
JF50. It's one every 5minutes after the first 90minutes.
20/07/2012 at 10:51


  Thanks TimR

Edited: 20/07/2012 at 10:56
20/07/2012 at 10:51

Or sooner if you're diabetic.

20/07/2012 at 10:58

Or none in my case.

No liquids and no fuel on runs up to 25 miles.

I do sometimes drink in races or if it is really hot. A mouthful of water though. Not enough to rehydrate, just to swill my mouth out.

I doubt I will fuel my marathon in April either. I may do if I am persuaded that I get some benefit from it on a couple of test runs over 22 miles (which of course I will be comparing against the same length runs without any fueling).

20/07/2012 at 11:30

I wish they had told us more about the products which do have good evidence to back them up.  They mentioned Creatine and Caffeine, but with no context.  No mention of gels.

In general I didn't think that there were major surprises in the programme.  They didn't say that sports drinks were no use, just that they were no use unless you're taking part in endurance sports.

If the Oxford University study and changes in the law (from next January) encourage claims to be evidence-based, this can only be a good thing for us all.  However, I suspect it probably won't take long for the industry to find a way to flout any new regulations.

20/07/2012 at 11:30
I thought it was really well done, agreed with most of it. The only thing I thought they could have mentioned is the convenience of a sports drink compared to a jam sandwich for carbs on the go. Same with protein shakes, you COULD eat a tuna sandwich but a sweaty, squashed sandwich that's been in my bag for 3 hours is less appealing than a milkshake.

I loved that the South African professor just cracked up when they asked him about low calorie sports drinks
20/07/2012 at 11:32

Thats Noakes:
The Lore of Running book link

20/07/2012 at 11:35
Curly45 wrote (see)

Thats Noakes:
The Lore of Running book link

I wish I could pretend to have read this tome cover to cover.  In truth, the best use I've got out of it recently is as a tofu press.

20/07/2012 at 11:42

A few comments about last night's programme (my conflict of interest here is that I worked on it).

There's been some really interersting chat and feedback on this forum. The problem is there's just a lack of high quality evidence for much is what is sold. For example, we tried to find the evidence that having your feet examined for pronation on a treadmill and then being prescribed a certain kind of trainer was going to reduce injury - it just wasn't there. The main issue is if you want to say something is based on years of scientific research, you really should be able to demonstrate it and reproduce it in follow up studies. That's essential to scientific process. We asked lots companies for their data on all sorts of products (compression garments are included) and there was just an absence of quality evidence (as judged by well defined scientific criteria). Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - and it might well be personal preferences and trial and error are the best way to judge what works for you.

20/07/2012 at 12:20

I enjoyed the program - especially as it suggested things I already do. I drink very little during runs. I only have sports drinks for long runs - normally only half marathon distance or more. I buy trainers that are comfortable - never spent more than £30 on a pair although I usually go for something that is 'last season' so they were probably expensive at some point. Never used gels or supplements, although I do like a Jelly Babie or two on a long run.

As others have said, would have liked them to look into compression clothing (another thing I don't use), and although I like the idea of barefoot running - is a really option for most of us?

20/07/2012 at 12:27

Without wanting to shamlessly plug the journal I work for, we've made all the content open access so people other than doctors and researchers can read it. There's some stuff on compression garments in this article:


There's lots of other content that's relevant too (much of it is written in academic speak but it looks as though there are plenty of scientists on this forum)

20/07/2012 at 12:34

Tenjiso - good point. According to EFSA there were two claims on caffeine (increased attention and increased alertness) considered "proven" for people in general (not specifically people engaged in sports).

The three claims considered "proven" for people engaged in sports were
increased endurance performance, increased endurance capacity, and
reduction in the rated perceived exertion/effort during exercise.

However, the European Commission have not sanctioned the latter claim as yet because of the harms of caffeine and the effect on kids.

It's worth pointing out that Oxford would dispute the quality of the science. You can read what they found about caffiene here:


20/07/2012 at 12:58

Thanks for the reply Deb.  I'm printing the report for a leisurely read.

20/07/2012 at 12:58
To be honest I'm glad I watched this last night . I didn't realise how much I'm stressing ( to strong a word perhaps) over shoes / drinks etc etc ..
Although I felt they were extremely biased , I feel it's given me the chance to look at things different . Go back to basics perhaps , and see how I get on .. As for the shoes the jury ,for me, is out .. By coincidence I have been reading 'running with the Kenyans ' there is a a lot of emphasis on bare foot running and that it's a natural way of running causing less injuries , and that trainers are adding to the problem . Also do Kenyans worry about sports drink , special trainers , food supplements ? Maybe the top athletes do theses days but I'm pretty sure the general local runners don't ... And they seem to be light years ahead with pace etc ...
20/07/2012 at 13:01

Whilst I don't doubt the value of the Oxford lead research, in my own area of research I see published data supporting claims that are occasionally, at best, open to question .  I do feel however that Panorama has been dumbed down over the years to the level of Tonight on ITV and this episode showed that. For me, it didn't show that Sports products don't work, it showed that there is no conclusive evidence that they do.  Just as on swallow doesn't make a spring, one bloke in Calgary saying buy whichever shoes you like doesn't make a fact.

It appeared to me that BBC had decided that they wanted to prove that Product X was rubbish and then demonstrated it. I didn't see a balanced arguement with the researcher's peers arguing the opposite point. IMO without a double blind RCT with a suitable sample size, it would be difficult to conclusively prove that Product X works. Or not as the case may be. Until then, IMO, the jury has to remain out.

Loved Tim Noakes laughing about Diet energy drinks, I've always wondered about them. Then again, if the placebo effect works, all power to it. I personally prefer water.

Deb, red or green racing flats? Which is faster?

20/07/2012 at 13:15

It absolutely wasn't the case that Panorama had set off to prove that product X didn't work. You can read the research behind the programme. Oxford Uni had a predefined protocol for the study (as happens with science) that was to see what the science underpinning claims was. We had no idea what would happen before we started out.Given companies invest so much money into the science, it's disappointingly poor quality. I'm not convinced that some of these multi-billion dollar companies are unable to fund rigorous research.

I agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - but that's not what people are buying into. They're buying into stuff on the notion that it's backed up with good science. That's simply not the case.

We have published the letter that went out to companies:


Dear xxx,




I am writing on behalf of a team of researchers from the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.


In the run up to the 2012 Olympics we are undertaking a piece of research analysing the evidence for sports health products. This will appear in the BMJ. Since we are on a very tight deadline we would appreciate your answers by the end of the week (18th May).


So far, we have used pieces of published research where possible. But we are aware that this might be the complete picture.




On your website you have listed the following references to scientific articles as evidence for




[Product names here]




Because we are trying to evaluate the evidence base across a range of products fairly, we would like to be sure that this represents a complete list of scientific articles that you have used to demonstrate how these products work.




[Found references here]


Do you think you could tell us:


If this is a complete list?


If not, what other data you have used to support your claims?


Is this published or unpublished?


If the research is published could you provide us with the relevant references?


If your research is unpublished, would you be willing to share it with us so we can fairly evaluate how your product works?




Please note, we are aiming to capture everything as accurately and fairly as we can. If you are unable to provide us with further information we will also note this in our research.


Don’t hesitate to contact us for further information, but we would appreciate a prompt response.







20/07/2012 at 13:22
"it didn't show that there isn't any evidence that they don't work, it just shows there isn't any evidence that they do" Sounds like the sort of argument the tobacco industry had for years.

I don't think you can say Panorama was dumbed down. It was presented at a level where it could be understood by it's audience. People who do sports. It wasn't for people who do research. I hate that kind of snobbery. The BBC is for everyone.
20/07/2012 at 13:28

"one bloke in Calgary saying buy whichever shoes you like doesn't make a fact" - no the programme did not rely simply on one anecdote. What message are you meant to give to consumers when there's a lack of good data for stability shoes or barefoot shoes?

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