When you peruse various sports websites, it is likely you will come across advertisements for sports drink and energy drinks. These products often promise heightened reflexes, faster recovery and better performance overall. They market their products toward young athletes, pairing a beverage with a professional athlete’s endorsement. In some cases, sports drinks do replenish athletes’ energy and gives them a competitive edge.
Unfortunately, many of the beverages contain harmful ingredients, especially for youngsters. These can include high levels of caffeine, impurities and questionable additives. As a result, the number of hospital visits involving energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011, according to the New York Times. It is essential that you educate your kids on which drinks they consume.
Read the labels
An abundance of ingredients is not necessarily a bad thing - but it can be a red flag. As with many things in life, simpler is better. If you don’t recognize half the names on the ingredients list, put it back on the shelf. If you see caffeine, you should turn away. Caffeine has shown moderate benefits in performance among competitive runners, for example, when consumed 30-60 minutes before the race. But for young athletes, it should not be necessary to introduce an addictive drug for a slight gain in results. If a drink promises protein, be wary - the source of the protein can vary and yield mixed results. Plus, protein is easily obtained through meals. Of course, if you recognize harmful additives, like lead or arsenic, look elsewhere.
Stick to the basics
In most cases, good old fashioned water is a perfectly adequate option. The primary goal for a recovering athlete is hydration, and nothing beats water in that department. Some elite athletes, like distance runners Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp, swear by a post-workout glass of chocolate milk. Protein shakes and specially-formulated recovery drinks have little benefit over tried-and-true dietary options. Peanut butter, banana, Greek yogurt, honey and spinach blended into a smoothie tastes great and provides basically everything an athlete needs after a day’s effort.
All of that said, not every sports beverage seen on TV or in magazines is bad for you. Some do offer benefits to the athlete that are wholesome and nutritious. The trick is just to be aware of what you are purchasing, and publish your personal list of recommendations on your team sport website.