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Are sports and energy drinks safe for kids?

Answer by:
Roy Benaroch, MD

Pediatrician, WebMD Medical Expert
Emory University

Sports drinks were developed to replace the water and electrolytes lost during intensive athletic training. 

For athletes who spend long hours training in hot environments, some supplementation with these electrolytes may make sense. But for almost all ordinary child and adolescent athletes under ordinary circumstances, the only thing that needs to be replaced is water. The extra sugars won’t do anyone any good. Coaches should concentrate on encouraging the best habits for young athletes: drinking water before, during, and after exercise.

Energy drinks are different. In addition to electrolytes (especially sodium), they often contain caffeine or caffeine-like compounds, along with a mixture of amino acids and herbal products like inositol, ginseng, taurine, and carnitine. Vitamins are often thrown into the mix, as well. The calorie count of energy drinks is often even higher than that of sports drinks. It’s far more likely that children, especially, will experience side effects rather than any kind of athletic “boost” from these concoctions.