Energy drinks are again being targeted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but this time sports drinks are in the crosshairs as well. In a clinical report released today, the doctors' group discouraged children from drinking sports drinks -- such as Gatorade, etc. -- in most circumstances.
Sports drinks do offer some benefits, such as replacing electrolytes lost during exercise, However, their high carbohydrate content can lead to obesity and their high sugar content can lead to tooth decay, according to the report. The group concluded that the potential negatives outweigh the positives, especially when water is readily available.
“For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” said Dr. Holly Benjamin, a member of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. “Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. 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. Sports drinks are not recommended as beverages to have with meals.”
The report allowed for youth consumption of sports drinks in limited circumstances:
- Sports drinks have a limited function for pediatric athletes; they should be ingested when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.
The report lists the nutritional content of common sports and energy drinks. As with a special article earlier this year, the clinical report argues that children should never consume stimulant-laden energy drinks.
“There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products,” said Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, a co-author of the clinical report. “Some kids are drinking energy drinks – containing large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous.”