As the days gradually turn warmer, those of you spending days sitting on the bleachers supporting your young athlete may be watching those sweaty faces and wondering,
Is my child staying hydrated enough?
Do I need to stock up on that sports drink I saw on sale at the grocery store?
Would buying sports drinks provide better hydration after the game is over?
Marketing campaigns for sports and energy drinks have been successful in advertising to our adolescents and young athletes with the message that these drinks offer superior hydration and fuel for athletic performance. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade® or Powerade®, are flavored waters that contain carbohydrates (calories) in the form of sugar and may contain other vitamins or additives. Energy drinks, such as Monster Energy®, Red Bull®, or Rockstar®, contain stimulants like caffeine and guarana. They may also include vitamins, minerals, sugars or protein.
In truth, WATER is the best hydration for the vast majority of children’s sports activities. Here is a rule of thumb to keep in mind: for every 20 minutes of sports activity, 8 ounces (1 cup) of water is required to replace fluids lost. If your child is involved in a soccer game for 1 hour, he or she needs 24 ounces (3 cups) of water after the game is done. Sports drinks are not necessary for most sports activities. Only during times when elite players are playing for extended periods of time that do not allow for rest or eating would a sports drink potentially provide benefit. Carbohydrates, protein and vitamins are best obtained from eating healthy foods at meal times. To provide best ‘refueling’ for your athlete, make sure he or she is drinking water before, during, and after the game, and make sure a balanced meal is provided after the activity is completed. For more information on providing balanced nutrition go to www.choosemyplate.gov.
Your athlete may also claim a need to ‘boost’ their performance with an energy drink. Most of these drinks contain caffeine or guarana, a plant extract that contains caffeine. Caffeine can have dangerous side effects to an athlete’s body, including increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and loss of fluids (diuresis). Caffeine can also cause headaches and sleep disturbances. Caffeine is not appropriate to give to a child or teenager before, during or after sports participation.
Does your child seem to tire or fatigue more quickly than his or her peers when playing sports? Dehydration has been shown to cause a decline in sports performance. Make sure your child is well hydrated before the game. Can they keep a water bottle at their desk at school? Do they use the drinking fountain at school? Do they drink from their water bottle during the game? Have they eaten a balanced meal before the game (including fruit, vegetable, carbohydrate, and protein)?
Routine use of sports drinks can also be associated with excessive calorie consumption and risk for weight gain. If your child is overweight, sports drinks add additional unnecessary calories to their diet. After the game, a glass of low fat milk is actually a great choice for post-sports rehydration and protein replacement.
In summary, water is essential for hydration–before, during, and after children’s sports activities. Keep a water bottle handy for your young athlete!
Reference: Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate? Pediatrics, 2011, (127), pp. 1182-1189.