For young athletes, water is best choice | TheUnion.com

For young athletes, water is best choice

SNMH staff
Special to The Union

The arrival of springtime brings with it a return to sports and outdoor play for many kids. Whether your child is on the baseball diamond, the soccer field or just playing outdoors with friends, keeping him or her hydrated is critical.

At least one group of sports medicine doctors say water is the best choice.

Sports medicine physicians at Penn State Health Medical Center found that most kids don't exert themselves at the intensity or duration necessary to make sports drinks beneficial.

Sports drinks are filled with added sugar and salt, which can be helpful in preventing dehydration. But the Penn State doctors found that kids really need to be exercising intensely for longer than an hour to benefit from the drinks.

In addition, because of their high sugar content, sports drinks increase children's risk for weight gain and tooth decay, another strike against them.

Energy drinks that contain caffeine or other stimulants are also not recommended for children. These beverages can boost blood pressure, cause heart palpitations, heart rhythm disorders, headaches and upset stomach.

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The best choice to ensure young athletes stay hydrated during sports or outdoor playtime is simple: water.

Kids should drink water throughout the day, including before, during and after exercise. If their activity includes a half-time break, encourage them to drink water and perhaps add orange slices or a low-sugar granola bar to add a bit of sugar and/or protein.

The Penn State doctors say the best beverage choice after exercise may surprise many parents: chocolate milk. They found that chocolate milk works just as well, if not better, than sports drinks marketed specifically as "recovery drinks."

They found that chocolate milk has the perfect combination of fat, proteins and carbohydrates to replenish young bodies.

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