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Pediatricians Warn Against Energy And Sports Drinks For Kids
While sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are marketed to student athletes for their replenishing nutrients, in this interview a sports medicine doctor warns against over consumption of the sugary drinks.
Do you think sports replenishing drinks are beneficial for teen athletes, or should they just stick to drinking water? #DoNowHydrate
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LeBron James drinking a cup of Gatorade on the sideline might persuade many people that sports drinks must be beneficial. As a result of marketing, sports drinks are consumed by people of all ages and have been popularized in modern society, allowing for the formation of many different sports drink corporations. With billions of bottles sold per year, sports drinks are a seven billion-dollar industry that is constantly growing and with the increase in sports drink production, they are now sometimes even cheaper than water. Companies, such as Gatorade and Powerade, claim that their products optimize athletic performance, but can these claims be affirmed by science?
When people exercise, their bodies lose water, salts, and other essential electrolytes through sweat. Their body utilizes electrolytes to sweat, increase water retention, regulate bodily fluids, control the pH balance of tissue, and facilitate muscle contractions. Many people drink sports drinks because companies advertise that sports drinks are better for hydration than water, since they are packed with these essential salts and electrolytes. Most sports drinks also contain high levels of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and BVO (brominated vegetable oil), which are considered highly controversial ingredients among nutritionists.
Sports drinks contain many electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium and sodium. Athletes tend to consume these drinks before, during, and after exertion, to replenish supplements that are vital to keeping their body functional and healthy. As stated by Gatorade, “Gatorade … hydrates better than water, which is why it’s trusted by some of the world’s best athletes.” It is suggested that an individual consumes at least 100 calories before exercise to keep muscles hydrated and keep blood sugar at a typical level. Some may argue that they are filled with unnecessary amounts of sugar and caffeine, but the nutrients listed above are needed to restock the body’s vitamins after a vigorous work out. Although it is not the healthiest drink out there, for youth it is a very satisfying beverage, while containing less sugar than sodas and other sugary drinks.
However, Gatorade and other energy drinks have faced criticism, particularly concerning potential diseases linked to the drinks and the excessive intake of sugars and carbohydrates. While sports drinks typically consist of electrolytes and citric acid amongst other ingredients, glucose-fructose syrup, or sugar, is often added for enhanced flavor. According to Deborah Cohen, author of The Truth About Sports Drinks, these added sugars could lead to insomnia, diabetes, obesity, and other health issues. When people drink sports drinks without exercising, sports drinks are equally as detrimental to their health as soda, since high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates are converted into fat. Although Gatorade and other sports drinks contain electrolytes and carbohydrates – crucial ingredients for exercise not found in water – a healthy, balanced diet provides these nutrients.
What do you think about these sports beverages? Do you think they are beneficial for teen athletes, or should they just stick to drinking water?
VIDEO: Are sports drinks bad for you? (Harvard Health Publications)
ARTICLE: Gatorade Shakes Up the Sport Drink by Going Organic (The New York Times)
FACT SHEET: Sports Drinks Fact Sheet (Sports Dietitians Australia)
KQED Education partners with phenomenal organizations to bring you the Science Do Now activities. This post was written by the following youth from the California Academy of Sciences’ TechTeens program:
Alexander B., Arianna W., Cole P., Alexander Y., Jasjeet J., Jo T., Maia A., Mathew L., Michelle C., and June H.
The TechTeens are youth leaders who use digital media to develop and communicate science stories for the public.