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Sports drink recommendations for kids

Keeping your kids hydrated when they play sports or take part in other physical activities is a concern for both you and their coach. Children are more susceptible to heat illness and injury because they lack effective thermoregulatory responses. They tend not to voluntarily drink adequate amounts of fluid during activity, and that can quickly lead to dehydration. What might surprise you, though, is that the sports drinks you give them might not be your best option.

What’s in sports drinks?

Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, flavoring, and some minerals intended to replace water and electrolytes lost from sweating during activity. They also pack a lot of sugar and calories — think tooth decay and weight gain. Many parents and coaches don’t realize that plain old water works just fine for hydration during most activities and sports unless a child is exercising vigorously or for an extended period of time. Keep this in mind for team sports and games where your child may play only a short period of time, but be on the sidelines most other times.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, children will voluntarily drink more fluid during exercise in warm or hot environments when provided with a sports drink than when plain water is given. Sports drinks taste great, but their high amounts of sugar create the potential to drink too much and add calories. With that in mind, it’s also important to make sure that children hydrate before and after exercise, which supports hydration during activity. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the goal is to drink a half-cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.

American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations

  • Avoid or restrict sports drinks unless the child is performing vigorous or extended physical activity.
  • Make sure water, not sports drinks, is the principal source of hydration for children.
  • Know that energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain, and children and adolescents should never consume energy drinks, including after exercising.

While sports drinks aren’t recommended for most activity, here are some natural recipes below that are healthier options for your kids than the store brands.

Natural sports drink recipes

Lemon Squeeze:

  • 20 oz. cup water
  • ½ fresh lemon, squeezed
  • ½ lime squeezed
  • 1 tsp raw honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Cherry Delight:

  • 20 oz cup water
  • 4 oz 100% cherry juice
  • 1 tsp raw honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Orange Twist:

  • 20 oz cup water
  • 4 oz 100% orange juice or 2 fresh squeezed
  • 1 tsp raw honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Overall, it’s important to remember that water is the preferred drink to rehydrate your child, even after most sports. Also remember to provide 100 percent juice, milk, or water with meals. This will help to keep your child healthy and ready for the next game or practice.



American Academy of Pediatrics:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

American College of Sports Medicine:

American College of Sports Medicine: