Sports drinks and energy are all the rage nowadays. Drinks like Gatorade and Red Bull are known to give us an energy boost when we’re feeling tired during work or are exhausted after hitting the gym. The media glorifies them. Athletes from different sports continue to endorse these beverages and, as a result, the drinks are becoming increasingly popular with children and adolescents. The rising numbers of young people consuming sports and energy drinks is a growing concern and is causing health professionals and parents to wonder: Are these drinks necessary?
To answer this question, it’s important to first make the distinction between sports drinks and energy drinks. They are different, even though they are frequently (and mistakenly) used interchangeably. In a recent article by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers define sports drinks as “…beverages that often contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes…sometimes vitamins…” While energy drinks are those that “…typically contain stimulants, such as caffeine…” Simply put: Sports drinks are meant to replenish the energy lost while engaging in physical activity and energy drinks stimulate you.
Many adolescents think that they need an energy boost, which is a major factor in making sports and energy drinks appealing. However, physicians suggest that for youth, energy boosts from these beverages may not be the healthiest option. In the clinical report referenced above, the researchers point out that drinking these beverages increases daily caloric intake, without significant nutritional value. Do not be deceived. Even though many sports and energy drinks may advertise that they have certain vitamins and minerals, you can get these nutrients from a well-balanced diet. Sports and energy drinks are also rich in sugar and some physicians argue that these drinks add to the burden of obesity and diabetes in youth. Moreover, pediatricians suggest that for children and adolescents engaging in average levels of activity, sports drinks are unnecessary. In addition, know that sports drinks, in particular, are only meant to be a supplement to and not a substitute for water.
The feeling of fatigue and exhaustion is something we’re all familiar with, so it’s easy to see why sports and energy drinks are popular—But are they appropriate for children and adolescents? Many pediatricians say “no.” Remember, the best source of energy, for both adults and children, comes from a well-balanced diet and a good night’s rest.
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Jonathan T. Reid, MPH is a clinical researcher and the new Lead Health Educator and Health Blogger for Dance Daze. He has a B.A. in Psychology and a Master of Public Health degree from New York University.