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Sports drinks are flavoured beverages that often contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and sometimes vitamins and minerals. With children and adolescents, careful consideration is necessary when selecting a beverage to hydrate before, during and after exercise, and outside of physical activity to prevent excessive sugar and caloric intake that may encourage dental erosion, overweight and obesity.

Sport drinks are not energy drinks – Energy drinks are harmful to kids. Energy drinks typically contain stimulants (caffeine and guarana) with varying amounts of carbohydrate, protein, amino acids, vitamins, sodium and other minerals.

Sports drinks were created to hydrate and fuel elite athletes with electrolytes and carbohydrates during exercise.

Sports Drinks Mainly Contain:

  • Water for adequate hydration.
  • Carbohydrates to deliver glucose to muscles, to keep blood glucose levels stable and to make it taste good.
  • Electrolytes like sodium and potassium to replace minerals lost via sweat and to enhance the flavour of the drink.

Parents belief that sports drinks are better for kids than other sweetened drinks. But is it? Let’s have a look:

A 500ml bottle of Energade contains 4 tsp (16g) sugar, 76kcal (320 kJ), 150mg sodium, 13,5mg Potassium. The American Heart Foundation has found that sweetened beverages like sport drinks and sodas are the number one source of added sugar for kids and teens in the USA.

Ingredients of Energade: Water, Sucrose, Citric acid (E330), Dextrose monohydrate (contains sulphur dioxide), salt, flavourings, preservatives: Sodium Benzoate (E211), Potassium Sorbate (E202), flavourings, Sodium Citrate (E331), non-nutritive sweetners: sodium cyclamate (E952) & Sodium saccharin (E954), Sodium Hexametaphospohate (E452), Ascorbic acid (E300), Monopotassium Phosphate (E340i), Dipotassium Phosphate (E340ii), Colourants E122, E110)

In Other Words:

All of the ingredients are safe and approved. But remember that sport drinks are mainly water and sugar with citric acid (which can wear away tooth enamel), synthetic food dye, emulsifiers & stabilisers, sodium and potassium which kids get through the food they eat.

Therefore, most kids will benefit more from drinking plain water.

Most Kids Don’t Need Sport Drinks – Most Kids Need Only Water

Yes, there is a place for sports drinks but there are a lot of marketing spent on promoting a drink to people who don’t need it, including kids and teens.

  • Electrolytes are easy to replenish via food: Bananas, a sandwich with peanut butter, yogurt and muesli, crackers and cheese can replace lost electrolytes and provide much needed macronutrients.
  • Marketing may be misleading and can lead parents to think that sports drinks are essential to sport performance. Unfortunately, more than half of youth sport time is spent either in sedentary or light intensity activity.
  • Citric acid and too much sugars can be bad for teeth and weight.

When Are Sport Drinks Appropriate:

When your child is participating in moderate to vigorous activity for more than 60 min. Much easier on the tummy to take a few sips of sports drinks than to sit down and eat a whole meal.
Useful for endurance runners.

How To Talk To Kids About Sport Drinks:

Make sure that your child knows that sports drinks will not make them suddenly faster or stronger.

It will replenish lost water and electrolytes and help with their energy levels when they play vigorous sports for more than an hour.

Make Your Own Sports Drink:


  • ±30ml (2 tbsp) hot water
  • 1 pinch (1/4 tsp) table salt
  • 3 tsp (15g) sugar
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 30ml (2tbsp) 100% juice (apple/ grape/ litchi for flavour)
  • 400ml bottled or filtered tap water

In a big jug, add the table salt and sugar to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Add the juice, lemon juice and cold water. Mix well.

Nutrition information per 500ml: 88kcal (300kJ), 22g Carbohydrates, ±250mg Sodium, ±55mg Potassium.

Remember: Rule Of Thumb For Sports Drinks

Moderate to vigorous activity lasting > 1 hour: Choose a sports drink that provides your young athlete with a source of carbohydrates, salt and potassium and drink enough to stay hydrated.

Light activity lasting < 1 hour: Choose water. Your child is not sweating enough or using enough energy to warrant using anything else.


  • Sneider M.B and Bemjamin H.J. Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They
  • Appropriate? Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Pediatrics (2011) 127 (6): 1182–1189.
  • https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-0965

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