Sports drinks and summer seem to go hand in hand. It's hot, kids are playing hard at a variety of outdoor sports and sweating like crazy and parents want to make sure to keep kids hydrated. Don't they need electrolytes and other stuff, too? Probably not.
The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in a recent report that kids rarely need sports drinks and should not consume energy drinks. Parents, teachers, coaches, kids and adolescents need to know that sports drinks are not recommended for the vast majority of youths engaged in normal physical activity.
But parents absolutely should ensure that their kids are hydrated. Adequate hydration is hugely important, and necessary for maintaining normal physiologic functions during exercise and routine daily activity.
The best way to make sure your children, be they athletes, bike riders, backyard players or dancers, is simple: WATER.
"Water is ... generally the appropriate first choice for hydration before, during, and after most exercise regimens," says the AAP. The average American child or adolescent does not engage in enough physical activity to warrant consumption of sports drinks.
Exactly how much water a tween needs depends on his/her body size, and other factors, including diet, medications, illnesses, and chronic health conditions.
And water means just that - plain water. Not The Vitamin Water, the nutrients in which can also come from a balanced diet without the additives found in vitamin waters, not sports drink and certainly not energy drinks.
The AAP report stated for the average child engaged in routine physical activity, the use of sports drinks in place of water on the sports field or in the school
lunchroom is generally unnecessary, and stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children or adolescents.
KidsHealth.org says that sports drinks may be beneficial for kids who participates in prolonged vigorous physical, meaning activity lasting longer than an hour, and lists long-distance running or biking as examples. If your child isn't as active (and sorry, baseball parents, sitting in the dug out doesn't constitute vigorous physical activity), sports drinks are not necessary. The casual athlete and should not be consumed on a regular basis.
This goes against the marketing of products such as Gatorade and Powerade, which HealthyEatingResearch.org found in a report published last summer were specifically marketed towards adolescents. They are marketed as a healthy alternative to soda, but with all the sugar and sodium in sports drinks, that's just not the case.
Sports drinks have a lot of unnecessary calories that can lead to weight gain or even obesity. They also can have a lot of sodium. The AAP also found that such drinks, with their high acidity, can cause dental problems.
Energy drinks are particularly popular with tweens and teens and they are also particularly dangerous. Most energy drinks contain not only a ton of sugar but also a boatload of caffeine — sometimes as much caffeine as in 1 to 3 cups of coffee.
"Using the energy drinks -- as opposed to sports drinks -- as an aid to exercise implies that consumption could occur when heart rate is elevated, raising the risk for heart failure," said Dr. Jana Klauer, a New York physician in private practice who specializes in nutrition, told ABC News.
In addition to those serious problems, it can adversely affect concentration and cause jitters, upset stomach, headaches and more. They are not safe. The number of ER visits due to consumption of energy drinks has more than doubled in recent years, and a majority of those cases involved teens or young adults.
The parents of a 14 year-old girl who died after consuming two Monster energy drinks filed a wrongful death suit against the company after the coroner found she died due to "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also investigating a handful of other deaths to see if they were linked to Monster's drinks.
Energy drinks should be avoided by tweens.
Yup, been there. It's tricky, and the transition will take time, but it's one you and your child can handle. If your child is really into sports drinks, first water them down, and then wean them off the drinks by substituting water with a bit of fruit juice. Transition to water with fruit slices in it - lemons and limes work well, and ask your kid what he/she wants to try. Maybe frozen raspberries or orange slices.
The AAP also suggests trying low-fat chocolate milk as a post-exercise protein-recovery drink.
Packaging matters for tweens (although we know it shouldn't, it does). Let him/her pick out what they think is a very awesome water bottle. If you're at home, try using fun glasses.
And the beauty of having a tween is that you can reason with him/her, at least a little. Talk with your tween about why water is so much better, including that fewer calories will make them fitter for their sport, water is healthier and that water is better for their teeth so no missed practice time due to dentist appointments
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