Drinking water may be better for young athletes than consuming sports drinks, according to scientists who warn that energy beverages can elevate blood pressure and cause cardiac problems in children and teenagers. Many people associate playing sports with having sports drinks as it is what they see professionals do. However, most recreational athletes do not play at an intensity or for a duration that would require their hydration to come with extra sugar and salt.
“Sports drinks can replenish some of what you lost during exercise, but you really need to be exercising for more than 45 minutes to an hour before you would consider that,” said Matthew Silvis, from Pennsylvania State University in the US.
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“Many of our kids are not doing enough to warrant it,” said Silvis. With increasing rates of childhood obesity, having kids chug sports drinks loaded with extra sugar as they exercise is not recommended, researchers said.
“Kids and adolescents really should not be using these drinks. Water is the best method of hydration,” said Katie Gloyer from Penn State.Young people who sip on sports drinks as a regular drink without physical activity also run the risk of weight gain and tooth decay from the added sugar.
Then there are energy drinks, which some professional athletes use to boost performance and gain a competitive edge by providing them with caffeine and other stimulants to increase focus and prolong their attention span.
However, Gloyer does not even recommend those to the adult, professional athletes. For children and adolescents, energy drinks can be downright dangerous. The beverages, which are not regulated, can contain several servings of harmful products in one container and easily exceed the amount of caffeine and other stimulants that are considered to be safe. That can elevate blood pressure and cause cardiac problems such as palpitations and arrhythmias, not to mention giving the user headaches, an upset stomach, and a general jittery or nervous feeling.
Silvis said the focus really should be on water and making sure kids are properly hydrated during exercise. “If they are playing 30- or 45-minute halves, they should have a water break and maybe add fresh orange slices or a granola bar to add a bit of sugar and/or protein at an appropriate level,” he suggested.
For post-workout recovery, plain old chocolate milk works just as well – if not better – than the fancy recovery drinks now on the market.
“Chocolate milk has the perfect combination of fat, proteins and carbohydrates that you want to get back into your system,” Silvis said. Of course, if the goal of exercise is weight loss, water still reigns king, he said. “Otherwise you can end up drinking more calories than you burned while exercising,” Silvis said.