For thirsty little athletes, sport drinks aren’t the answer
The kids are dashing back and forth across the soccer field, or maybe they’re just running around the yard on a warm day. They get a little thirsty and reach for a sports drink.
There’s a better choice, according to Tracy Warren, RDN, a clinical dietitian in Cape Cod Hospital’s Nutrition Therapy department.
“Water and not sports drinks should be the principle source of hydration for kids,” she said.
Children, as well as most adult athletes, seldom exercise for the duration or with the intensity that would require anything more than water, she said.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends if your average child is engaged in physical activity on a hot day for less than an hour, they generally feel that Gatorade and drinks like that are unnecessary,” she said. “If they’re out there for less than an hour or so, water is fine.”
The best bet is to make sure the young movers and shakers drink plenty of water before they go out to play, said Warren.
“Have them drink a cup of water before they play and then every 20 or 30 minutes you might want to give them more water to make sure they’re not becoming dehydrated.”
Keeping chilled water in the fridge is a good idea, and younger children enjoy drinking water out of to-go cups or from a cup that has one of their favorite characters on it, she said.
If the kids want something with a bit more of a boost than water, a little fruit juice is OK.
“But you have to be careful with that. Just like the sports drinks, the problem with juice is the added calories, which can lead to obesity if they drink a lot of it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only a half a cup to one cup a day, and it should be 100 percent fruit juice.”
After exercise, a glass of milk is a great choice.
“Milk is something else that kids need in their diet, but again you have to limit the milk you give them. For children 4 to 8 years old, 2 cups a day is the limit. Chocolate milk is fine, if they prefer that. With milk you have your protein and your vitamins and your minerals.”
As for sports drinks, kids don’t need them and they contain too much sugar, which can cause tooth decay and lead to obesity, she said.
And youngsters shouldn’t turn to energy drinks to recharge their energy, she said.
“Energy drinks have a lot of health risks for children because they contain a lot of stimulants like caffeine,” she said. “The AAP recommends that they should never be given to children or adolescents. They also have a lot of calories. Kids tend to drink 24 ounces and it’s empty calories with no nutrients. That leads to obesity as well.”
One of the best ways to make sure your kids drink enough water is to by setting a good example. Keep on sipping that water!