Energy and Sports Drinks for Teens: Any healthier alternatives?
We're zooming in on a topic that significantly impacts the lives of children and teenagers – energy drinks and sports drinks. These beverages are prevalent choices among teenagers, , promising a boost in energy, enhanced concentration, and improved performance. But are they helping teens create a healthy lifestyle? I am going to use as a reference the 2011 AAP clinical report (although it is officially a “retired” report now)
“Sport Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?“
The constant advertisements for energy and sports drinks on social media, television, and even in schools has piqued our curiosity. These beverages are presented as magical elixirs, capable of elevating a child's energy, enhancing their concentration, and keeping them alert during physical activities. What's more, they come loaded with a variety of ingredients – carbohydrates, amino acids, caffeine, protein, vitamins, and electrolytes. While these components are vital for the growth and development of teenagers, the real question is whether they truly need them in these drinks, especially when they are following a well-balanced diet.
I have talked previously about the effect of caffeinated beverages in teen’s health, you can listen to Ep 15 The role of caffeine in promoting high-sugar food consumption in teens.
A well-balanced diet for teens involves a daily intake of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, and a quarter of their plate dedicated to each of protein and carbohydrates. The overarching query is whether these drinks are necessary when teens already adhere to a nutritious healthy well-balanced diet.
Sport drink versus Energy drinks
Before delving into the nitty-gritty, it's imperative to understand the distinction between sports drinks and energy drinks. While they may appear similar, they serve distinct purposes. Sports drinks focus on replenishing water and electrolytes lost during strenuous activities. Conversely, energy drinks are made to deliver a quick energy boost through the inclusion of ingredients such as carnitine, ginseng, caffeine, taurine, and others.
The Importance of Water
Water stands as an essential component of a teenager's daily diet and it's the supreme source of hydration. Prolonged and intense physical activities can result in significant dehydration, making water the most effective means of replenishing lost fluids. This leads us to the critical question: Is there a genuine need to replace lost electrolytes, even when a teen follows a well-balanced diet?
For teenagers who engage in prolonged and vigorous physical activities, especially for durations of one to two hours, there can be a drop in sugar levels. At this point, they might seek a source of quick energy to enhance their performance. Any drink containing carbohydrates, such as milk or orange juice, can fulfil this need. These natural options provide the energy boost required during exercise. Moreover, choosing whole foods over artificial substances, commonly found in sports and energy drinks, can be a healthier alternative. Whole foods are a rich source of essential nutrients without the artificial additives that are often present in commercial drinks.
The Sugar Dilemma
One of the significant concerns associated with sports and energy drinks is their sugar content. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero consumption of sugary drinks. There is no necessity for sugary drinks, as the nutrients they provide can be obtained from healthier, natural sources.
Consultation with Professionals
Each individual's nutritional needs are unique, and for teenage athletes, these requirements can be even more specific. Before incorporating sports or energy drinks into a teen's diet, it's essential to consult a medical professional. Physicians, nutritionists, and dietitians can offer personalized guidance to ensure that these beverages align with the teen's specific nutritional needs and goals.
Transitioning to Natural Nutrition
In conclusion, it's time to reassess the dependence on sports and energy drinks and opt for a more balanced and natural approach to nutrition. Natural sources like fruits, vegetables, and water offer a plethora of benefits, from superior hydration to maintaining optimal energy levels. For those seeking a quick energy boost, I would also recommend the option of fresh nutrient-rich smoothies that can be a healthier and more wholesome alternative.
If you don’t know how to make healthy smoothies, here is a free collection of 15 easy smoothies for teens I put together for you. You can be creative and create your own smoothies too, really, just pick your favourite fruits and veggies and mix them up with milk or yogurt and there you have it!
Remember, water is the best form of hydration for everyone!