In short…I do think that sports drinks are almost equivalent to soda. However, let me explain.
Sport drinks are in every kid’s hand after soccer games, before and after sports class, and even at the park after school. I must admit that this is something that really irks me…especially because my boys see the other kids drinking it and then, of course, they want it too.
Do I cave?
Well, yes! Sometimes just because my wonderful hubby let them have it once and now they love it. Of course, my real hope is that by giving it to them, it will become a “neutral food” and they will not yearn for it or put it on a food pedestal. The neutralizing effect seems to be working because they typically drink only a small amount and then forget about it…or finish it another day. However, I must constantly explain that it is a “sometimes” food/drink. I also tell them that these drinks were created for athletes like the Olympians who train for hours each day.
In all fairness, sports drinks are a source of quick energy and electrolytes when athletes need to replenish their systems. However, these drinks are only necessary when someone has been exercising at an intense level for 90 minutes or more. According to the Journal of Medicine, sports drinks should be consumed “only for those athletes with sustained physical activity.” The average kid I observe is exercising for less than 45 minutes straight and has barely worked up a sweat. The Academy of Pediatrics states that while athletes can benefit from sports drinks, “for the average child engaged in routine physical activity, the use of sports drinks in place of water on the sports field or in the school lunchroom is generally unnecessary.”
If my kids are sweaty while playing outside I may say yes to a sports drink, but most of the time I just say NO! (As you might guess…if I say yes, I am cringing on the inside!) I would prefer that the kids drink juice for the antioxidants as well as for exposure to different tastes of fruit rather than artificial flavors and straight sugar. Another option is milk. The boys can drink milk as a source of natural sugar and get doses of protein and calcium as side benefits.
So, should sport drinks be in the school vending machines?
No! Should sports drinks be sold at venues like Chelsea Pier or athletic departments? Ideally, no. But, if there are true athletes training there as many are at NYC’s Chelsea Piers, a sports drink vending machine easily can be rationalized. Should these drinks be available during the camp day…or to youngsters? Personally, I don’t think so…particularly since it seems that neither parents nor their kids are aware that children do not need them. Overall, I think the sports drinks are being purchased by kids attending basketball class or winter sports camp…and these kids definitely don’t need artificial drinks with added sugar and salt.
This, of course, is a parent’s choice, but I secretly wish parents would refrain from introducing their kids to these drinks as they are merely soda in disguise with added electrolytes.
Moms and Dads…are you falling prey to sports drinks?