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Energy and sports drinks: to drink or not to drink?

Energy and sports drinks are widely available. Advertising may lure children and youth to try these products.  So, best arm yourself with information for your children’s sake!

Sports drinks are different from energy drinks.  Sports drinks are mixtures of water, sugars minerals, and electrolytes.  They may be used for rehydration during or after exercise to replace water and electrolytes lost from sweating.  For athletes involved in vigorous and prolonged physical activities, sports drinks can help replenish losses.  For children engaged in routine physical activities, water is likely sufficient.  Most sports drinks have unwanted calories for your child.  Long term use of sports drinks may lead to obesity and dental erosions.


Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks are not intended for hydration.  Energy drinks claim to boost energy, decrease fatigue and improve concentration.  They contain stimulants such as, caffeine, taurine and guarana.  Caffeine can cause wakefulness and provide temporary energy boost.  Caffeine levels vary among energy drinks.  The caffeine content for some energy drinks can exceed the maximum daily limit for children.  Children are at higher risk for side effects from caffeine than adults.  Anxiety, headaches, anxiety, fast heartbeat, sleep difficulties and irritability are possible side effects.  Caffeine has also been linked to harmful health effects for a developing child’s brain and heart.  Caffeine can also interact with other medications.  Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can also be dangerous.  Given the health risks, avoid giving energy drinks to children.


If you have more questions or concerns about these beverages, ask your doctor for additional guidance.

Becky Biqi Chen was a resident in general pediatrics for three years at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. She is currently specializing in pediatric gastroenterology during her fellowship at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.


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