We all know that everyone should hydrate before and during physical activity, and for general wellbeing.
But what about children who compete in recreational sports? What are the best ways to keep them hydrated?
The problem with well-known sports drink brands is that they contain ingredients designed for collegiate and professional athletes that train at high levels and in harsh environments. Since most children don’t fall into that category, let’s look at a few side effects of consuming these types of drinks outside of their intended use:
1. Too much sugar consumed vs. the energy being burned.
Professional athletes need more sugar intake for quick energy, and they immediately expend it with high calorie-burn rates.
Kids, on the other hand, store the remaining sugar as fat. For children that participate in casual sports, this can contribute to weight gain and a predisposition for childhood diabetes.
2. Too much sodium.
Sports drinks often contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which the body loses through sweat. These are necessary to keep the body fluid levels in balance and for muscles to work well. But if not sweated out, they can collect in the body and raise sodium levels.
3. Serving sizes are too large.
Sports drinks are sweet so they’ll taste good and promote hydration. While this is a good thing for a competitive athlete, the serving sizes are often intended for adults, not children. The large serving sizes contribute to over-consumption of sugar and salt in children.
To complicate matters, many sports drinks are served in oversize containers. This leads to over-serving children with ingredients their bodies cannot process healthily.
So what can you do to combat these issues?
1. Use plain water if that is the only alternative.
In some cases, plain water is enough to quench the thirst on a hot day. However, it lacks the essential nutrients to replenish vitamins the body needs to fuel the body with energy. Also, because it has no taste, kids may not drink enough of it to properly rehydrate.
2. Look at the grams of sugar and sodium.
Make sure there aren’t excessively high levels of sugar and sodium in the sports drinks you give your kids, as their smaller bodies will not be able to process it easily.
3. Check the calories per serving.
Do the math to make sure you’re not giving your kids too many calories. Since most sports drinks are formulated for adult athletes, they can often contain too many calories for children. Choose the right serving amount for your child’s age and size.
We hope this article was helpful in pointing out the ingredients for healthy sports hydration and what to look for when choosing a product.