It may seem like a good idea to give your kids sports drinks to rehydrate as they play outside or participate in sporting activities, especially in warm weather.
But parents really should just stick to plain water, says Amy Seery, MD, a pediatrician with Via Christi Clinic and a faculty member of the Via Christi Family Medicine Residency program.
“Sports drinks are never as good as water,” says Seery.
The reason why, she says, is because sports drinks contain sugar. For example, a 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade can contain 21 grams of sugar and 80 calories. Seery, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, warns that diets high in sugar lead to childhood obesity and dental issues.
Along with water, here are some other options Seery recommends offering to help kids rehydrate and recover from activities and exercise that work up a thirst:
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, such as watermelon or cucumbers,
- A salty snack such as pretzels that will help replace potassium and sodium – electrolytes that help balance fluid in the body and that are often lost during sweating, or
- A citrus fruit.
If parents aren't ready to ban sports drinks, Seery suggests diluting a full-strength sports drink with half water and adding a pinch of salt.
And kids definitely should stay away from energy drinks, says Seery and the AAP, because those drinks contain caffeine, a known stimulant, as well as taurine and guarana that can boost the effects of caffeine.