Beware of giving your athletic kids so-called sports drinks. Don’t confuse marketing with facts. Have you ever read the ingredients of a typical “sports” beverage? The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has recently come out with a report about sports drinks and children.
And it’s this: Kids who engage in physical activity, and with that the associated healthy eating habits, may be adversely affecting their health with sports drinks – these kids tend to take in large quantities of “sports” drinks in the name of a perceived health or athletic performance benefit. If a bottle simply says “sports” on it, this can influence an athletic kid’s decision to consume it.
A sports drink often contains added sugar, plus artificial color and artificial flavors, or “flavor” of unknown origin. The University of Texas Health Science Center’s study is in the October 2010 Pediatrics.
The study’s principal investigator, Nalini Ranjit, PhD, says that kids, along with their parents, perceive these beverages as being health-giving, even if they contain added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and lack nutrients.
The study showed a correlation between physical activity and consumption of sports drinks, and a correlation between low levels of exercise and consumption of soda. Kids who ate healthy foods were also more likely to drink “sports” beverages. But these products have very little real fruit juice, and plenty of empty calories.
Even a child with a fast metabolism shouldn’t be ingesting unnecessary sugars, along with the synthetic colors and flavorings. “Sports” drinks do not make young athletes run faster or throw farther. The study also reports that there is an association between obesity and consuming sugar-sweetened drinks.
Lost fluids can easily be replaced with water, adds the study. And whole fruit is preferable to any form of fruit juice; a glass of fruit juice, even 100 percent natural, has many more calories than one serving of whole fruit.
“Consuming large amounts of flavored and sports beverages could undo the effects of all that exercise,” says Ranjit.
Athletic kids and teens don’t need artificially flavored drinks with fake colors any more than do inactive kids. Think of what your primitive ancestors, who were constantly on the move in the name of survival, did to replenish lost body fluids: They drank water and ate whole fruit. Manufacturing plants didn’t exist during ancient times, and during those times, early man, including youth, had exceptional athletic prowess.