Sports and Energy Drinks

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report on Sports and Energy Drinks. This report confirmed what we have been telling Teens/Families for years. To see the full report please click here. Below are what I see as the highlights of the report.

Sports Drinks (Gatorade, Propel, etc)
These are being marketed to teens and families as if they are needed for performance enhancement. The truth is that most children only need water and a good balanced diet to recover from being physically active. The problem with these drinks is that they contain a lot of calories that are wasted with no nutritional value. The electrolytes contained in these drinks provide no benefit as a normal diet will replenish electrolytes lost with activity just fine. The added amino acids or proteins provide no benefit and their use is not scientifically supported. 

Probably the only situation where these should be used in teens/children is with prolonged physical activity where recovery time is limited. For example, a basketball tournament weekend and used between games the same day. 

Energy Drinks (5 Hour Energy, etc)
These are also being marketed to children telling them that they need more energy to perform better in sports, school or life. The truth behind this is that they should not be used in children. While they are usually low in calories the caffeine can cause an unsafe increase in heart rate or blood pressure. The caffeine can make you urinate more and dehydrate you during sporting activities. Teens that use caffeine report issues with sleeping, mood changes and anxiety. The most terrifying issue with caffeine use is that it can lead to heart problems like arrhythmia, an abnormal heart beat. The true effect of caffeine on developing brains (teens) is unknown but we do believe that there is a higher chance for addiction in this age group.

The Bottom Line:
1) Lots of misuse by teens. These are being used as a recreational drink and not for recovery from vigorous sports activity. 
2) Sports drinks should not be used for meals or snacks.
3) Sports drinks should not be available in the school setting. The reason for increased marketing of these drinks to young people is likely due to the restrictions placed on soda availability in the school. When the soda companies were told to get soda out of school they started pushing these drinks as a "healthier alternative" even though they are not.
4) Sports drinks are no different than soda or other "empty calories" and are contributing to the overweight and obesity epidemic our children are facing. Continue to follow the 5-2-1-0 rule and you will be just fine
-5 fruit and veggie servings per day
-2 hours MAX of screen time (time in front of a TV, computer, phone, etc)
-1 hour of activity per day
-0 drinks that contain calories. This includes sports drinks, soda, juice etc. 

As always, please call us at any time if you have questions or concerns. - Aaron Traeger MD
Aaron R Traeger MD FAAP Pediatrics Pediatrician Bloomington Normal Illinois