Q: My 13-year-old son Angus is playing soccer, lacrosse and basketball. I want to make sure he stays hydrated. What’s the best drink for him, and how much should he consume?
Brenda H., Nyack, New York
A: Energy drinks, those pick-me-ups marketed as quick hits of rocket fuel, ARE NOT FOR KIDS. A single 2-ounce energy shot may contain as much caffeine as four cups of coffee. A recent study found that children who drink them are 66 percent more likely to exhibit hyperactivity and inattention in school. Plus, caffeine can be a diuretic, so when taken prior to exercise, these drinks can contribute to dehydration.
Sports drinks are a little different. They generally contain electrolytes and minerals like calcium and potassium that are lost when you sweat. But many also contain sucrose, fructose, bad-for-you-HFCS and plain old cane sugar in quantities that are way, way above what the body needs. So skip the sports drinks that contain sugar unless you’re doing more than two hours of continuous physical activity. Here’s what we recommend:
Drink water throughout the day; coaches should schedule regular water breaks every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the heat. And to make sure your son gets the electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, chloride, etc.) he needs, serve a breakfast of 100 percent whole grains, lean protein and fresh fruit (bananas are great), and provide him with snacks like no-sugar-added natural peanut butter, nuts, bananas, celery, fresh fruit and vegetable juice. Sugar-free sports drinks will keep him hydrated for activities that take less than two hours of continuous physical activity.