What was once looked upon as a “luxury” for star athletes, sports drinks seem to have become a norm in the fitness world now. With so many varieties and flavours available in the market, each brand claims that they are just what sportspeople and athletes require to stay at the top of the game.

However, a recent study done by Pennsylvania State University in the US states otherwise. It says that consuming sports drinks may not be as good for you as sipping on water. According to the researchers, energy beverages have been shown to elevate blood pressure and cause cardiac problems in children and teenagers. The marketing world maybe all gung-ho about energy drinks, making people consider it as an essential beverage during sports, but one shouldn’t consume them blindly without weighing the odds.

Adolescents and health drinks

“Sports drinks can replenish some of the nutrients that you lose during exercise, but in order for this to happen, you really need to be exercising for more than 45 minutes to an hour before you would consider gulping down that energy drink,” says Matthew Silvis, from Pennsylvania State University.

For post-workout recovery, plain old chocolate milk works just as well than any fancy recovery drinks

With the rates of childhood obesity skyrocketing, having kids chug down sports drinks loaded with extra sugar and salt because they merely exercise for 20 minutes is strictly not recommended, said researchers. “Water is the best method of hydration,” said Katie Gloyer another researcher from Penn State. Young people who sip on sports drinks instead of water without much physical activity also run the risk of weight gain and tooth decay from the added sugar. Apart from sports drinks, there are energy drinks, which some professional athletes use to boost performance and gain a competitive edge by providing them with caffeine and other stimulants to increase focus and prolong their endurance.

However, Gloyer does not even recommend these caffeine-infused drinks to adults and professional athletes. So for children and adolescents, energy drinks can be downright dangerous. These beverages, which are usually not regulated, contain several servings of harmful products in one container and easily exceed the amount of caffeine and other stimulants that are considered to be safe. This can elevate blood pressure and cause cardiac problems such as palpitations and arrhythmias in the long run, besides giving the user headaches, stomach upsets, and a general jittery feeling upon consumption.

Why Water?

Silvis said the main focus for any mode of hydration should be on water and making sure kids are properly hydrated during exercise. “If they are playing 30- or 45-minute halves, they should have a water break and maybe add fresh orange slices or a granola bar to add a bit of sugar and protein at an appropriate level,” he suggested.

For post-workout recovery, plain old chocolate milk works just as well than any fancy recovery drinks currently available in the market. “Chocolate milk has the perfect combination of fat, proteins and carbohydrates that you want to get back into your system,” said Silvis. But this again depends on what the goal of the exercise is, for example if the teenager is aiming at losing weight then s/he should probably stick to plain water instead of any fatty intake because this will just add to the calorie count instead of burning them, he concluded.

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