Pediatrics recently released a report about sports drinks and kids. It’s basically common sense for any adult who is nutritionally minded and marketing-skeptical. Highlights:

  • Energy drinks and sports recovery drinks are not the same, but kids confuse them due to similar marketing campaigns.
  • Energy drinks contain lots of caffeine, which children and teenagers should NOT be drinking. Especially for sports.
  • Water is the prefered beverage before and during any normal physical activity. Water or milk is the prefered post-exercise beverage.

Sports drinks without caffeine are only appropriate under the following conditions:

  • Very hot and/or humid conditions in which the child is exercising vigorously (and sweating heavily) for an extended period of time. “Extended” does not mean 45 minutes. Think 60 to 90 minutes with minimal breaks, or an all-day event with temperatures over 85F.
  • The child is on a sodium restricted diet, with minimal salt.
  • The child is consuming very large amounts of water, and could be at risk for low blood sodium levels. (This is unusual, and would typically happen on that hot and humid day with prolonged exercise.)

Sports and energy drinks are to be avoided because:

  • They contain calories with minimal nutrients. (Hello, non-soda sugar rush!)
  • Those nutrients are readily available in food, generally in the normal diet.
  • Caffeine.
  • Dental cavities.

So, should kids be drinking Garorade or Powerade-type beverages? No. Unless they are sweating vigorously over an extended period of time. If you need any encouragement to talk to your school district about not offering sports drinks through vending machines or the cafeteria, take the report below. (Hint: talk to the Wellness Committee.)

Clinical Report–Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?”
http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-0965

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