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Monstrous Marketing: Unbrainwashing Gatorade Athletes

Welcome to a new Plant Yourself feature: Monstrous Marketing.

Marketing is a huge part of the reason most people are overweight and sick. So marketing has to become a huge part of the solution.

In Monstrous Marketing, I'll be sharing examples of misleading and manipulative marketing around diet and lifestyle, and suggest ways to neutralize this garbage for ourselves and our loved ones.

Today's Topic: Gatorade for Young Athletes

A reader wonders:

My boys are extreme athletes. We have the 80/20 rule with regards to food at our house. My boys (9 and 11) are very strong willed and fight with me about water to sunscreen. One of our biggest disagreements is about Gatorade. At their baseball games I sit and watch what the other kids are eating and drinking and I cringe. I only let my boys drink water at games but they beg for Gatorade every game and think I'm a horrible mom because I ‘force them to eat healthy.' I know Gatorade is not good for the kids especially because of the colored dye. I would really appreciate any help here. What would be a better choice for a sports drink substitute?

My reply:

Gatorade Sports Science InstituteFirst of all, there's no question that Gatorade is crap. Artificial colors, tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and various other highly processed and fractioned ingredients. Drinking water and eating fruit would be a much healthier option.

Now, before you jump in and get into a big fight, I think it's helpful to understand the enemy. Gatorade (owned by Pepsi) was the first entry into the sports drink market, but struggled for many years once it became outflanked by the cheaper Powerade (owned by Coke) and more expensive Pocari Sweat. In 2007, sales of Gatorade nosedived, and in 2008 the company brought in fresh blood to revitalize the brand.

Sarah Robb O’Hagan, the new CEO, led an effort to market the colored sugar water to young boys. According to Fast Company's Jason Feifer:

Robb O’Hagan looked into research on when kids stop playing for fun and start competing. That seems to happen around age 11, so Gatorade began making more of a push with coaches of that age level. It also revised lesson plans at its 4,000-plus sponsored summer camps and sports tournaments to stress a connection between nutrition and performance.

Gatorade spends millions of dollars buying athletes who will promote the brand. They've created a  sports science think tank, the Gatorade Sports Science Exchange, that lends scientific credence to its nutritional fantasies. And they're aiming real big in their efforts to own your boys' minds, sponsoring serious sports websites like Stack.com and establishing “Gatorade as a hub of fitness knowledge” via their new high-tech Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Chicago.

The Fix

Here's a case where media education is needed, along with nutrition education and authoritative parenting. Read the Fast Company article on Gatorade with your kids. Discuss advertising in sports, and get them to start seeing how professional athletes get paid by junk food companies to promote their stuff.

And find some athletes with integrity (there are many in the plant-based movement) who can serve as alternate role models for your young competitors. Check out The Fruitarian and introduce your boys to Michael Arnstein, one of the top endurance athletes in the world. Have them correspond with Rich Roll, the former couch potato turned ultra triathlete.

Ask them to research the ingredients in their favorite flavor of Gatorade for health concerns and side effects.

Take them shopping for fruits and raw nuts and granola mixes. Get a book on healthy smoothies and have them taste test recipes. (Start with Tracy Russell's The Best Green Smoothies on the Planet or Julie Morris' Superfood Smoothies).

And let me know how it goes…

Warmly
Howard

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