Today the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report (ahead of print in June issue of Pediatrics) on sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents. I read the report and was interviewed by NPR, however, it appears I only made the cut for the blog article.
The way this story is being reported reinforces the need to read beyond the headlines. The second sentence of the abstract clearly states, "sports drinks and energy drinks are significantly different products and the terms should not be used interchangeably." The report goes on to say that "these drinks (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 vigorous sports participation or other intense physical activity."
In other words, athletic kids, especially those who exercise in hot, humid conditions, can benefit from using sports drinks as part of their hydration strategies. Fluids are critical to young athletes. Because of their size they have more surface area to body mass and they absorb the heat from the environment more readily than adults. Kids are at a high risk for heat illness when exercising in the heat and humidity of a summer day. My fear is that parents and coaches will read only the headlines that are reported for this story and not allow kids to drink sports drinks when they are needed for rapid re-hydration. August will be here before we know it and that means football practice...I hope the Gatorade coolers don't disappear from the sidelines in junior high or high school football!
Sugar has become the scapegoat for childhood obesity and all dietitians agree that we should all consume less sugar. But, a sports drink has less sugar than fruit juice so sports drinks have their place in the life of an active child or adolescent. Yes, I used to be on a board of advisors for Gatorade, but I was on the board because I believed in the science behind sports drinks and recommend them for use by athletes of all ages.
The report contains some good information about energy drinks and I agree that kids and adolescents don't need energy drinks...I think they can be dangerous for kids, especially kids who are active. Exercise raises heart rate so there is no need to go into exercise having consumed energy drinks with caffeine which can elevate heart rate, too.
So, read the report and gain some useful information, but please read beyond the headlines to make sensible, science-based recommendations for active kids.