HEALTH SPOTLIGHT: Consumption of Sports Drinks Among Teens – Should We Be Worried?

By  //  May 30, 2018

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sports drinks not recommended for vast majority of youths engaged in normal physical activity

Children’s and adolescents’ consumption of sports drinks is increasing. Amidst a national obesity epidemic, many sports drinks sold in the United States contain high amounts of sugar, adding more calories to youths’ diets.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Coast Daily is delighted to welcome Dr. Christopher Johnson as a guest contributor on issues of child health and well-being. With 35 years of experience practicing pediatrics, pediatric critical care (intensive care), and pediatric emergency room care he is committed to educating parents on how best to meet the needs of the ill and injured child in today’s often confusing and complex healthcare system. In this article, Dr. Johnson provides some facts and sage insight into the consumption of sports drinks by children and teenagers.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

recent report in the journal Pediatrics examines how many teenagers frequently consume sports drinks and what the implications of that are. “Sports drink” is a loose term to describe the wide variety of products, such as Gatorade, Revive, Monster Plus, and many others.

If you go into a convenience store these days and look in the cooler you’ll see as many of these as you do standard soft drinks.

They differ some in their ingredients, but they are electrolyte (various salts) and carbohydrate-containing soft drinks, often flavored and sugar-sweetened and are advertised to restore energy and fluids expended in strenuous exercise.

You should know that ordinary water is just fine. Children don’t experience a significant loss of electrolytes during even very strenuous exercise. Maybe, just maybe there is some loss after four hours or more of extreme exertion, but that’s even questionable, and we’re talking marathon running in the hot sun-grade exercise here.

Children don’t experience significant loss of electrolytes during even very strenuous exercise, so ordinary water is just fine for rehydration.

These products are essentially sugary soft drinks that make their drinkers feel they are somehow doing something good for their bodies. They aren’t. Drinking these products without extremely vigorous exercise just leads to weight gain, like any soft drink.

Among other things the study authors found that, although many schools have reduced access to and sales of soft drinks, sports drinks have been largely left alone.

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The amount of the stuff adolescents drink has increased over the last five years. Overall, nearly 60% of adolescents now consume sports drinks at least weekly. That’s a lot of useless at best, fattening at worst, sugar.

My view is these products are no different from other soft drinks. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional soft drink, but we shouldn’t regard sports drinks as particularly healthy in comparison with, for example, Coca Cola. I live in the hot, dry Southwest and well know the importance of hydration. But water is fine for that.


Christopher Johnson, MD

Dr. Christopher Johnson received his undergraduate education in history and religion at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1974. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1978 from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, then trained in general pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, followed by training in pediatric infectious diseases, hematology research, and pediatric critical care medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and in pediatric critical care medicine and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Johnson, who has been named to a list of  The 50 Best Mayo Clinic Doctors — Ever,” devotes his time to practicing pediatric critical care as President of Pediatric Intensive Care Associates, P.C., as Medical Director of the PICU for CentraCare Health Systems, and to writing about medicine for general readers. His popular website/blog and four books provide a wealth of information and answers to practical questions related to child health issues.