Sports and energy drinks are very popular with youth, and advertisements carry the message that sports drinks will help them perform faster and stronger; while energy drinks are portrayed to enhance their concentration and reduce fatigue. In addition, current trends show that soft drinks and other sugary drinks have replaced milk in the diets of many American children, as well as adults.
"Sports drinks are flavored beverages with some electrolytes, minerals or additives," explained Pediatrician Laurie Penix, M.D. "In comparison, energy drinks usually have some sort of additional stimulant, which is most commonly caffeine."
"Energy and sports drinks are often marketed to youth and their parents to create the perception of providing both physical performance and health benefits. For example, sports drinks may be seen as necessary for replacing fluids lost by sweating. But they still have many unneeded, low quality calories. Moreover, since they seem to have a perception of offering some level of health benefits, people may tend to consume a greater amount of them."
"Energy drinks not only have poor nutritional value, they also often contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants," Dr. Penix advised. "Caffeine not only interferes with , it can cause anxiety, raise a person's heart rate, and increase the risk of dehydration. In addition, energy drinks often get confused with sports drinks, which generally don't have caffeine."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks or any other drink with caffeine, should be off limits to children and teenagers. This includes colas and coffee drinks.
Sugary Drinking Habits
When it comes to the beverage habits of America's , 2011 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that high school youth are drinking far too many high-calorie sodas and sugary drinks, and these findings are being supported by a new Yale University study.
"Soda has become the number-one source of calories in teens' diets," Dr. Penix continued, "and sugary drinks make up about 22 percent of the empty calories that are consumed by children and teens. Just one fruit drink, regular soda, or energy drink contains more added sugar than most young people should consume in an entire day."
Many fruit drinks and energy drinks have as much added sugar and calories as a full-calorie soda. For instance, one 8-ounce serving of the typical full-calorie soda, energy drink, or fruit drink contains 110 calories and 27 to 30 grams of added sugar, which is 160% or more of the recommended amount of sugar than most children and teens should consume in an entire day. Even though children's fruit drinks often come in smaller 6- to 7-ounce containers, two-thirds of these drinks contain more than 15 grams of sugar, which is the maximum amount that children should consume in a day.
Over time, studies have shown that the drinking of sugary drinks by young people is associated with increased calorie consumption, body weight, and diet-related health issues, such as poor overall nutrition, pre-diabetes and tooth decay. Especially alarming is the relationship between soft drink consumption and obesity- researchers calculate that for each additional soft drink consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.
"Our bodies are designed to get their calorie requirements from solid foods, and their water requirements from beverages," Dr. Penix continued. "When large numbers of calories come in liquid form, our bodies don't seem to regulate their weight as effectively. For instance, when we eat a solid food, it takes up space in our digestive tract for awhile, and hormonal messages are sent to the brain that make us feel full. This process doesn't occur as effectively with liquids, even though liquids may actually contain a great deal of calories."
So what should children and adolescents drink when they exercise? According to the AAP, water. "Sports drinks only really make sense when youth are engaged in prolonged, vigorous activity, like a soccer tournament or a track meet," Dr. Penix concluded. "The general rule is that a person needs to have exercised intensely for at least an hour before needing to replenish sugar, sodium and potassium levels. In addition, energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."
Laurie Penix, M.D., is a Board certified Pediatrician affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's Medical Staff and the Pediatric Care Center of Salem. Her office is located at 2020 East State Street, Suite C, in Salem, 330-332-0084.