Sports/Energy Drinks: Okay for Kids?

Summer’s almost here, and that means active kids. I love to see kids swimming and diving at the Aquatic Center here in Fort Atkinson, boating down the Rock River, smacking tennis balls and riding bikes. Those growing bodies need lots of exercise to stay fit – and they also need plenty of cool, refreshing drinks to keep going in the heat.  

These days, it’s difficult to walk into a convenience store without confronting a big display of sports drinks and energy drinks. Marketing aimed at children and teens has become so intense that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a May 29, 2011 report encourages physicians to discuss the use of these drinks with their patients during annual physicals.

Are the drinks a good idea? Probably not. First, let’s look at energy drinks. These are marketed under names such as Monster, Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. They are full of stimulants and do not belong in the diets of children or adolescents.

Sports drinks are a somewhat different story. These beverages (Gatorade is one example) may contain carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes, and are intended to replenish what’s lost during exercise. These drinks can be beneficial for young athletes during and after a tough workout, but are unnecessary for the average child engaged in routine physical activity. The bottom line is that sports drinks can add significant calories and contribute to weight problems in children.

The very best choice and the one I offer my own children? A tall, cold glass of ice water.

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