Are Sports Drinks a Healthy Choice for Teens?

Are Sports Drinks a Healthy Choice for Teens?

High school sports practices will soon be underway for many teens.

These workouts often go hand-in-hand with sports beverages — but are these drinks healthy for adolescent athletes, or even necessary?

A recent study looked at daily consumption of sports drinks among teens.

Researchers looked at surveys of high school students and found that consumption of sports drinks is especially high among not just athletic teens, but sedentary teens.

“What is happening is that sports drink consumption is decreasing overall, however, the kids who probably need the sports drinks the least are still consuming them regularly,” says Diana Schnee, R.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, who did not take part in the study.

Schnee says that families often think that sports drinks are a healthy alternative to soda, but this isn’t the case.

She says many people are surprised to learn that most sweetened sports drinks have about the same amount of sugar as a can of soda pop. For example, she says that while one can of soda can contain about 40 grams of sugar, a sports drink can contain about 36 grams of sugar, so people are not really cutting back on the sweets by swapping soda for sports drinks.

Schnee says many parents also think that their children need the extra carbohydrates and electrolytes during exercise, but that’s also a myth.

“Many of these sports drinks are marketed towards elite athletes and towards adults, but it’s important to remember that adults lose electrolytes much more quickly than children do,” she says. “Kids actually don’t need the electrolyte replacement during activity.”

If a child is doing very intense exercise for more than 60 minutes, Schnee says they might need extra sources of carbohydrates, but this can be accomplished through eating fresh fruit or dried fruit rather than sugar-sweetened sports drinks.

She also warns that sports drinks marketed as “zero” calorie aren’t a better choice. Drinks labeled as “zero” calories contain added artificial sweeteners, which are not a healthy option for children.

“Treat a sports drink like you would a can of soda, or even a glass of juice, which are not necessarily healthier,” Schnee says. “Although juices might have some added vitamins and minerals that some other products don’t have, it’s still basically liquid sugar and children, especially those who are sedentary, do not need additional sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Complete results of the study can be found in Pediatrics.

— Submitted by Cleveland Clinic News Service

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