Reprinted with permission by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Iowa Newspaper Foundation
A common myth is sports drinks are needed during and after a game or workout to recover. The fact is unless you workout hard for more than one hour, the fluids lost through sweat can be replaced with plain water.
Sports drinks and vitamin waters are advertised as healthy drinks for athletes because they replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweating. And, for kids who have tough fitness programs or participate in a high-energy sport like basketball or soccer, they may be beneficial.
Carbs are broken down in your body into sugar, which is then used to feed your muscles and give you energy. One carb is equal to 4 calories. If you haven’t burned up the calories in your workout equal to the calories you eat or drink, you end up with extra calories. Drinking sports drinks when you don’t need them can lead to gaining weight.
Electrolytes are made up of potassium and sodium. These nutrients help restore fluid balance lost during sweating. However, because sweat is 99 percent water and only 1 percent electrolytes, you may actually consume more electrolytes than you need.
Experts say most kids get the electrolytes and carbs needed for sports and other activities through a balanced diet. Hydration should come from drinking plenty of water before, during and after the activity.
Sports drinks may be appropriate for kids in competitive sports that last more than one hour. But during the school day and at most sports practices, water is the best drink for kids.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System, “HealthHints”