Limit the Sports and Energy Drinks Kids Consume

Posted 09/20/2016 | By HealthCorps

Walk into any supermarket, mini-mart or athletic supply store and the array of sports and energy drinks is dizzying. You’ll see a range of flavors and formulations. Meant for athletes during practice and games, these drinks are popular choices for kids and teens. But do most kids and teens really need these drinks and more importantly, are they a safe choice for this age group?

A 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested caution when it comes to choosing beverages for kids before, during and after exercise. These drinks can be loaded with sugar, caffeine and other ingredients that may not be appropriate for kids and teens. Energy and sports drinks were originally intended to replenish performance athletes who tend to burn loads of calories and who lose copious amounts of fluids during their practices, workouts and performance events. A child or teen may benefit from a sports drink after an hour or more of strenuous activity. But after routine or moderate exercise efforts they are just not appropriate or necessary.

The drinks in this category do not offer nutritional benefits and should certainly not replace water. Energy and sports drinks shouldn’t substitute for fruits, vegetables or healthy protein snacks. The sugar content of sports drinks can also increase tooth decay risk and these drinks have artificial colors and flavorings.

Sports drinks usually contain carbohydrates, meant to provide energy, and they also typically feature electrolytes, which can be lost through sweat, during vigorous exercise. A single serving of watered down juice would serve this purpose.

Enhanced waters often contain vitamins and minerals plus extra calories, sodium, artificial sweeteners, and in some cases, caffeine. Give your kids water or sparkling water that has no sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Energy drinks are usually labeled “not safe for kids” but that doesn’t mean that parents or teens are paying attention. Often filled with sugar and caffeine, they are not appropriate from a safety perspective for this age group. Stimulants in these drinks can affect a young person’s heart rate and blood pressure.

Make water and unsweetened, caffeine-free teas the go-to beverages for kids and teens. You can also:

• Add fruit to ice cubes and then chill water with these fun cubes
• Add a splash of juice to water or club soda
• Make sun tea and add slices of lemon and oranges
• Make juice ice cubes and add to plain water.

One of the most important reasons to skip these enhanced waters, energy and sports drinks is because of the new sugar mandates being recommended by the American Heart Association. Kids under two years of age should have no added sugars in their diet and kids and teens between the ages of two and nineteen should limit added sugars to a maximum of six teaspoons of sugar daily. The category of beverages that includes sports drinks, energy drinks and enhanced waters is one of the biggest sources of added sugars in kids’ and teen diets.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics
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