Dear Editor:

I read with interest your article appearing in September's issue of Fitness Business Pro regarding the new research published in the July issue of Medicine Science Sports and Exercise about sports drinks containing protein. I want to provide you with our point of view on this topic.

While the study referenced may lead some to conclude that protein should be included in sports drinks, we have several concerns about this specific study. While the researchers used Gatorade-brand powder to formulate the carbohydrate-only sports drink, it was mixed to a 7.3 percent concentration. Science shows that Gatorade should be consumed as a six percent carbohydrate solution. As you pointed out, while the two sports drinks contained the same amount of carbohydrates, they were not calorie matched, making it impossible to tell if the effects of the carbohydrate-protein sports drink resulted from additional calories or from the protein itself. Finally, the study was not placebo controlled, making it impossible to fully understand the importance of the performance benefit.

We believe that research to this point on the benefits of protein for performance have been inconclusive. In fact, the same research group just presented a follow-up study at the 2004 American College of Sports Medicine meeting that showed contrasting results — no additional performance benefit of a carbohydrate-protein mixture.

The primary reason for consuming a sports drink is to prevent dehydration by rapidly replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Preventing dehydration reduces the risk of heat illness and can avert premature muscular and mental fatigue.

At this time, we have counseled against adding protein to Gatorade for the following reasons: carbohydrate, not protein, is the primary energy source for muscle and brain during exercise; protein does not enhance fluid absorption and in fact may slow gastric emptying; protein does not improve rehydration; protein in a beverage has a “chalky” taste that can reduce acceptability and fluid consumption and the evidence of any benefit for protein consumed during exercise has yet to be firmly established.

That said, we do believe that ingesting protein after exercise is important for recovery, and that is why high-quality protein is part of the Gatorade Nutrition Shake.

We continue to learn from emerging science and will keep a close eye on this topic.
Sincerely, Jeff Zachwieja, PhD, FACSM
Senior Research Scientist
Gatorade Sports Science Institute

Dear Mr. Zachwieja:

We are glad you took the time to add depth to the discussion on this area of research. When reporting any type of research, we are cautious to report it as fact, as many studies are preliminary or need much more research for the findings to be credible. We'll continue to write about studies in the field with a heavy use of caveats and explanation of its possible weaknesses allowing readers to find more information and make decisions for themselves.

Dear Editor:

I am a club owner that operates a bit out of the mainstream of the industry. I was very encouraged by your letter in the October issue of Fitness Business Pro (First Word, October 2004).

The fitness industry has been lost in the 1980s for years. Fitness professionals live in a bubble of thin, pretty people. The people that enter gyms are not the average citizen. Clubs are fighting over the 30 percent or so of society's exercisers.

I have a 10,000-square-foot gym that is going after the other 60 percent. I am courting the over-160-pound woman and those over 40 years of age. The men we woo are over 50 and over 180 pounds.

Sooner or later the mainstream industry is going to have to get a new image or destroy each other for the few remaining “confident gym goers.” The movie “Perfect” is still the image that most overweight people see when they think of the people who are in gyms, so they try to get into shape with home equipment before they go to the gym. Sort of like cleaning the house before the cleaning lady arrives.

What makes me an expert on this subject? I am a female Navy veteran who was in pretty good shape for most of my life, but after the birth of five children, the last three in five years, I had gained 200 pounds. When you weigh 360 pounds, you get a whole new perspective on life. Anyway, I am not at goal yet, but I have lost more than 150 pounds in the past four years. I opened my gym when I weighed 290 pounds. Seemed like a crazy move, but the response has been incredible.

My husband supervises and instructs our men-only exercise area, and I supervise and instruct our women-only exercise area. We use Nautilus Next Generation exercise equipment because it accommodates larger size clients, which leads to another industry and manufacturing problem.

You might be interested to know that due to industry demands for equipment with a smaller and smaller footprint in clubs, the manufacturers have downsized most pieces of selectorized equipment so now if you happen to get a “fat” person in the club, and they happen to enter the weight room, they will discover that they don't fit into the machines!

I appreciate your attention, and I thought you might like to know you hit the nail on the head. Just wish there was some way to reach the industry to open their eyes to their own limitations.
Sherry Woitowitz
Owner, Personal Best Strength Training
Neosho, MO

Dear Ms. Woitowitz:

Good for you for your efforts to reach the population that is often underserved and/or dismissed by this industry. We hope that through efforts such as yours and those of clubs similar to yours, other fitness centers and facilities will realize the benefits of reaching out to a population in desperate need of our industry's help.