Are Sports and Energy Drinks Safe?

Chances are, your child has already tried a sports drink or energy drink. In the past few years these drinks have become increasingly popular with children and adolescents. In fact, they are so popular that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a report about the safety of these drinks for children.

“Parents should know that the two drinks are quite different,” says Shonda Brown, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s. Sports drinks are meant to replace fluids and electrolytes while exercising. Energy drinks contain caffeine or other stimulants.

The Skinny on Sports Drinks

According to the AAP report, most children don’t need sports drinks. For the average child involved in regular physicial activity, sports drinks are not appropriate for snack time, mealtime or playtime, Brown explains. “Sports drinks contain added carbohydrates that with routine consumption can lead to excessive caloric intake and an increased risk of obesity.”

However, Brown and the AAP agree that sports drinks do have a place in active play. “Sports drinks are useful when children are involved in prolonged, rigorous physical activity,” Brown says.  “They can help provide carbohydrates, the most important fuel source during exercise, and replenish the electrolytes your child’s body loses during intense play, especially in hot weather.”

So while your child doesn’t need a sports drink while at the playground, you might want to pack one for soccer, football or basketball.

Energy Drinks are Not for Kids

Energy drinks on the other hand, are not meant for children or adolescents. These beverages contain more than 500 milligrams of caffeine – equal to about 14 cans of soda. The AAP report warns they may also contain a host of other ingredients that aren’t healthy for a child’s growing body. “You never know what you’re getting in an energy drink. They have no place in a child’s diet,” Brown says.

For most types of activity, water is still the best option. Brown recommends encouraging your children to drink about 5 to 10 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes to keep your children properly hydrated.

“Encourage them to drink water often while active, and not to wait until they feel thirsty,” she says.

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services.

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