AAP says forget sports and energy drinks-water is best

June 3, 2011

Don?t believe the hype about sports drinks and energy drinks optimizing athletic performance. Plain water is still the best choice for children and adolescents, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a new clinical report.

Don’t believe the hype about sports drinks and energy drinks optimizing athletic performance. Plain water is still the best choice for children and adolescents, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a new clinical report.

The AAP Committee on Nutrition and Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness developed the report on the clinical implications of overuse of sports and energy drinks by children and adolescents as guidance for pediatric health care providers.

Sports drinks and energy drinks are significantly different products, says the AAP. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes, and flavoring and are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating while exercising. Energy drinks contain stimulants including caffeine and guarana, protein, amino acids, vitamins, sodium, and minerals, and advertise performance-enhancing effects.

Both beverages are marketed to children and adolescents, but for the average child engaged in routine physical activity using such drinks in place of water during sports activities or to replace low-fat milk with meals is unnecessary.

In general, commercial sports beverages contain nutrients and electrolytes that can be provided by a healthy balanced diet, but because they also are overloaded with carbohydrates they can substantially increase the risk for overweight and obesity in this age group.

Energy drinks boast high amounts of caffeine, in some cases exceeding levels high enough to cause toxicity. Caffeine may enhance physical performance in adults, but in children and adolescents, caffeine affects developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems and presents risk of physical dependence. Dietary intake of caffeine should be discouraged for all children, says the report.

The AAP also notes that the marketed effects of specific amino acids and proteins contained in sports and energy drinks for postexercise recovery have not been supported by clinical trials. It recommends low-fat milk instead.

Practitioners can educate patients and their parents about the differences between sports and energy drinks and promote water as the best principal source of hydration.

Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Clinical report-sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate? Pediatrics. 2011. Epub ahead of print.