My son loves sports drinks. Are they damaging his health?

Sports drinks are specifically designed to improve fluid intake, hydration, and performance by providing precise levels of carbohydrates and sodium. Photo/Shayna Douglas on Unsplash

Plain water is sufficient for hydration for most amateur athletes. According to researchers, he doesn’t need high sugar or high sodium sports drinks. By Jennifer Bowden.

Q: My teenage son eats well and does a lot.
of different sports at school. But I’m worried he’s drinking too many sports drinks. He takes them to school with lunch and drinks them with snacks at home. What do you think?

A: Sports drinks are specifically designed to improve fluid intake, hydration, and performance by providing precise levels of carbohydrates and sodium.But do amateur athletes need them? Are they good for our health when we are not participating in competitive sports?

Studies have shown that adequate hydration is beneficial to athlete performance. Exercise leads to water loss, especially through sweating, so hydration is necessary to compensate for this. If these lost fluids are not replenished, athletes can become dehydrated, and even the slightest amount of dehydration can affect performance and worsen endurance, power, and strength. , dehydration can be life-threatening.

From a performance standpoint, dehydration of 2-7% body weight has been shown to affect cycling time trial endurance. And think of the cricketers who spend hours playing in the hot summer sun. A survey of his elite Sri Lankan cricketers found that 85% of his fielders and bowlers were unable to maintain speed and accuracy levels when dehydrated. The fielder had significantly lower speed and accuracy for overarm and sidearm throws, and 22% less accuracy for sidearm throws, while the bowler had less speed and he had 20% less accuracy. Hitters are mildly affected, being 2% slower after completing three runs, which can be the difference between a runout and a safe run.

Elite athletes are trained to drink before they are thirsty.

The drink is specially designed with a carbohydrate content of 4-8% to promote optimal gastric emptying. Higher concentrations of carbohydrates slow emptying, slowing the supply of water and energy to the intestine, where they are absorbed and used for fuel and hydration during exercise.

Sports drinks also contain sodium, the main electrolyte the beverage needs to function. Sodium stimulates the uptake of sugar and water from the small intestine into the body, promoting rapid refueling and hydration.It also stimulates thirst and replenishes sodium lost through sweating. The sodium concentration in our beverages has been specifically adjusted to optimize this process.


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This means that a typical 750ml bottle of sports drink contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar, 200mg of sodium and about 1000kJ of energy. This means it contains about the same amount of energy and sugar as a 500ml bottle of Coke.

2018 review of sports drinks published in the journal nutrients, both amateur and professional athletes can experience dehydration, but there is confusion about the need for sports drinks among these athletes. They all agree that water is sufficient for hydration for most people.

Sports drinks should be used for hydration and refueling during training or competition in high-intensity sports lasting longer than 60 minutes. is enough. If your exercise intensity and duration are on the lower end of the physical activity scale, refueling is not an issue.

Sports drinks are not suitable to be enjoyed while having lunch, watching TV or surfing the internet as they have few nutrients, add a significant sugar load to the diet and can cause tooth decay. Treat it like you would any other sugar-sweetened beverage (such as a soft drink) and drink it only occasionally. Water and low-fat milk should be the mainstays of hydration for ourselves and our children.

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