Saturday, June 04, 2011

Should my child take sports drinks/ energy drinks after exercise?

The short answer is NO. Plain water is the BEST rehydrating solution for most children doing routine exercises / activities.
For a longer version, read on ...
In India, the fad of sports drinks and energy drinks is fast catching on. For starters, is there any difference between the two?
Yes, Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes, and flavoring, and are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise. Although they may be useful for young athletes participating in prolonged, vigorous physical exercise, they tend to be overused and are usually unnecessary. Some brands available in India include Gatorade, Stamina (Amul) and Sofit (Godrej).
Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks contain stimulants including caffeine, guarana, and/or taurine. Rigorous review and analysis of the literature suggest that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents. Because caffeine has been associated with harmful neurologic (brain) and cardiovascular (heart) effects in children, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided. Energy drinks can make a normal child restless and anxious.The excessive sugar present in these drinks not only adds to the calorie counts, but also acts as a laxative. Energy drink brands available and aggressively marketed in India include Red Bull, XXX & Cloud 9.
For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is the best form of rehydration. Use of sports drinks can increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay, and is not required for routine activity.

Specific AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommendations regarding use of sports drinks and energy drinks in children and adolescents include the following:

  • Pediatricians should educate patients and their parents regarding the potential health risks of energy drinks and sports drinks and explain the significant differences between these types of drinks. The terms should not be used interchangeably.
  • Energy drinks should never be consumed by children or adolescents, because the stimulants they contain pose potential health risks.
  • Children and adolescents should avoid and restrict routine consumption of carbohydrate-containing sports drinks, which can increase the risk for overweight, obesity, and dental erosion.
  • For pediatric athletes, sports drinks should be consumed in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity, when rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes is needed.
  • For children and adolescents, water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration.
Given the increased awareness and easy availability of these drinks in the Indian Market, pediatricians and parents need to be aware of the potential risks of these drinks.

So what should an active child take if he indulges in vigorous activity?

It's better for children to drink water during and after exercise, and to have the recommended intake of juice and low-fat milk with meals. The recommended intake of juice is 6 oz (~ 180 ml/ 1 small glass) for children 1-2 years, and up to 2 glasses (6-12 oz/ 2 glasses) for older children only.

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