Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Kids

Gatorade for Intense Exercise - Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, have always been popular with kids and parents.

And that's not necessarily bad, as there is a role for sports drinks for kids during intense physical activity.

Unfortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a clinical report that will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, 'Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?,' warns that when used more routinely, because they do usually have calories, drinking extra sports drinks outside of intense physical activity can lead to an increased risk of childhood obesity.

Water and low-fat or fat-free milk are better options during meals and snacks.

The problem is that parents often see sports drinks as a healthy alternative to soda and fruit juice, so they let children drink them all day. But while they have less calories than soda and fruit juice per 8 oz serving, they typically come in much larger 32 oz bottles, so your child ends up with more sugar and calories if he drinks the whole bottle, as many kids do.

Even during short or light exercise, most kids don't need the extra electrolytes, minerals, and sugar in sports drinks, and can instead drink water. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sports drinks 'should be ingested when there is a need for more rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during periods of prolonged, vigorous sports participation or other intense physical activity.'

What about a role for energy drinks, like Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, or Full Throttle, etc., and all of their caffeine?

Not surprisingly, the AAP finds no role for energy drinks for kids, stating that 'energy drinks pose potential health risks primarily because of stimulant content; therefore, they are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.'

Most importantly, make sure that kids don't drink energy drinks when playing sports, which sometimes take the place of sports drinks or water, and can actually make it more likely that a child gets dehydrated.

Cavities can be another problem with drinking too many sugary drinks, including sports and energy drinks. And if they replace milk, then kids might not get enough calcium or vitamin D each day.

The last thing most kids need is extra calories. If they want a sports drinks, get them moving and sweating, and after some intense physical activity, hand them a Gatorade.

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