Are Sports Drinks Good for Your Children?
It is Saturday morning and I am up early to get myself ready to take my 5-year-old son to his basketball game. As a health educator, it concerns me to see the little children at the game being given sports drinks by their parents when the coach tells them to “take a WATER break”.
Sports drinks contain a lot of sugar that can contribute to tooth decay and obesity. A clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that energy drinks, or any other drink with caffeine, should be off-limits to children and teenagers. That includes colas and coffee drinks.
Pediatricians recommend that children and teenagers should drink water to meet their hydration needs, and drink 2 glasses of milk to get other nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, and calcium.
Sports drinks may be beneficial for kids who participate in prolonged vigorous physical activity lasting longer than an hour (such as long-distance running and biking, or high-intensity exercises such as soccer, basketball, or hockey). But definitely not to young 5-year-olds in a well-conditioned gym playing a 24-minute basketball game with plenty of water breaks and at times absolutely no sweating at all. These drinks are not a problem for highly active kids, just as long as they drink them in moderation, and when they partake in their vigorous sports activity.
What is in a Sports Drink?
These drinks contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar, which can come in handy during prolonged activity because they provide an immediate source of energy when the body depletes it's stores. They also contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which the body loses through sweat, and which are necessary to keep the body’s fluid levels in balance and for muscles to work properly.
What about Vitamin Water?
Just like sports drinks, vitamin water is also enhanced with supplements such as vitamins and mineral and artificial sweeteners (to give the flavour), sometimes with caffeine, and herbal ingredients whose effects have not been studied in children. It is also recommended to avoid these waters and give your children plain water. If you have a child who does not prefer to drink water, you can make water drinking fun by serving the water in a fun cup, by adding ice and fresh fruit such lemons, berries, etc.
Always keep in mind that these drinks may contain a lot of sugar affecting your children’s teeth and can also contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Let us try to teach our children that to perform better in their sports, they need to rest well, eat a well-balanced diet, eat a variety of foods, practice and always give their best. Let us not teach them at a young age that they need something “extra” such as a Gatorade to perform better in their sport. Remember actions speak louder than words.
Let us leave sports drinks to our young high-level athletes who exercise and sweat intensely, for more than an hour at a time, and if it is less than that! Water will do just fine!