We see many young sportsmen and women drinking sports drinks on a regular basis after training and on match days across the UK. From U7 sport all the way through to elite sport, the popularity and consumption of sports drinks is on the rise in sporting children.
Part of the reason is that many parents perceive sports drinks to be a healthy option for their little athletes.
Most children are not physically active enough to reap the benefits of a sports drink. Although practices may be scheduled for long periods of time, your child is unlikely to be fully active during this period. As a result not only may your child be doing less exercise than you think, but they also do not need to be replenishing themselves with sports drinks.
There is also some research to suggest that sports drinks consumed in higher quantities may also contribute to weight gain.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of offering a sports drink each time your children head off to practice or a game, you may want to have a change of plan.
Here are some things to think about:
- Those involved in high intensity exercise for over an hour or more may benefit from the use of sports drinks during and after exercise.
- Those engaged in prolonged exercise (greater than one hour), in high temperatures may benefit from the use of small amounts of sports drinks (a small 12 ounce bottle) to help prevent dehydration.
- Consuming sports drinks may result in extra calories, sodium and sugar. Used inappropriately, sports drinks may contribute to excess weight gain and negatively influence a child’s health.
- Sports drinks are full of sugar – you may be visiting the dentist on a more regular basis.
- Sports drinks may displace and crowd out essential nutrients for growth and health.
- Marketing and advertising efforts directed at children and teens entice them to purchase and consume sports drinks. Some common messages kids hear include: sports drinks are a healthy alternative to soda (they are not); they help improve athletic performance (they can help keep a young athlete hydrated during extensive exercise); they increase energy levels (not proven); and are a healthy thirst quencher (the salt content helps quench thirst).
In the presence of a balanced diet, drinking water before, during and after exercise may be enough to prevent dehydration, even with prolonged exercise.
So, if plain water can cover hydration needs without the potential negative side effects, doesn’t it make sense to rethink the sports drink?