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Ronald E. Kleinman, MD, physician-in-chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children and unit chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, explains why kids rarely need sports drinks and should not consume energy drinks.

Doctors Warn Against Sports & Energy Drinks for Kids

08/Jun/2011

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say kids rarely need sports drinks and should not consume energy drinks. Ronald E. Kleinman, MD, physician-in-chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children and unit chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, explains.

Q: What’s the key message of the new AAP report?

A: The key message is that water works great for almost all kids who are out practicing sports and losing some water in the exercise and the sweating that they’re doing. Kids can have a piece of fruit, like an orange, along with the water and that helps to provide them not only with water, but also a little bit of sugar and perhaps even some other nutrients. By and large kids do not need sports drinks for the usual kinds of activities that they’re engaged in and they don’t need energy drinks at all.

Q: What’s the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks?

A: Energy drinks often contain stimulants, like caffeine and guarana and other substances that are thought to enhance performance.

Q: Do energy drinks cause different problems than sports drinks?

A: Part of the problem is that stimulants have effects on metabolism and heart rate and the way kids think that would be similar to drinking several cups of coffee or consuming tablets that contain caffeine, and that’s really inappropriate, something a child doesn’t need to have.

Q: Can kids have sports drinks sometimes?

A: I think for the serious athlete who is running intense drills in hot weather, sports drinks may be appropriate, but I would leave that up to the coach and the physician who works with the team to decide when that’s necessary. I would urge parents to recognize that if kids are exercising during times when there’s a lot of heat or humidity, sun exposure, and/or intense exercise, adequate water needs to be provided to maintain hydration. The key issue for virtually all kids is to maintain hydration and water can do that pretty adequately.

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