While sports drinks and energy drinks are two completely different beverages, many parents may not know what the differences are between the two.
Sports drinks are flavored, sweetened beverages designed to restore energy and fluids, and they contain electrolytes, minerals, and carbohydrates. These drinks have extra calories that could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. While there are certain child athletes who may benefit from consuming sports drinks due to participation in regular, vigorous activity (Rodriguez et. al., 2009), on average, children do not participate in the amount of physical activity that would warrant consumption of beverages that contain electrolytes (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).
Energy drinks contain stimulants, like excess amounts of caffeine and sugar, guarana, and taurine, that are not found in sports drinks. These stimulants can potentially cause harm in children’s bodies and can affect the development of neurologic and cardiovascular systems, increase anxiety, contribute to sleep disturbances, and increase heart rate and blood pressure (Seifert et. al., 2011). Some energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which equates to the amount of caffeine in 14 cans of soda (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011). Additionally, one energy drink can contain anywhere from 7 tsp to 21 tsp of added sugars. The American Heart Association states that children between the ages of 2 and 18 shouldn’t consume more than 6 tsp of added sugars in 1 day (American Heart Association, 2016).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
- Pediatricians should highlight the differences between sports drinks and energy drinks with patients and their parents and talk about the potential health risks.
- Energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain and should never be consumed by children or adolescents.
- Routine ingestion of carbohydrate-containing sports drinks by children and adolescents should be avoided or restricted because they can increase the risk of overweight and obesity and can cause dental erosion.
- Sports drinks have a limited function for pediatric athletes; they should be ingested when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.
- Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. (2011). Clinical report-sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics, 127, 1182. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965
American Heart Association. (13 September, 2016). Sugar and our children. [Blog]. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.yourethecure.org/sugar-and-our-children?s=q%3Dchildren%252Bsugar%26sort%3Drelevancy
Rodriguez, N. R., DiMarco, N. M., Langley, S., American Dietic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine, & Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(3), 509-527.
Seifert, S.M., Schaechter, J.L., Hershorin, E.R., & Litshultz, S.E. (2011). Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Pediatrics, 127(3), 511. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3592