When it comes to kids and hydration, there are literally hundreds of choices out there for you to sift through. What should you be giving your kids when they play sports, or are out playing all day? For some reason the neon colored sports drinks have somehow made it into the ‘healthy’ category because we see healthy looking athletes drinking them and doing amazing things.
The truth is, the average young athlete can and should get all the necessary nutrients and hydration by eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Kids should take water breaks during sports games, and even when playing outside for long periods of time.
There are times when a hydration drink with electrolytes and carbs may benefit your child. If your child participates in prolonged strenuous activities such as long distance running, or high intensity activities like soccer or basketball, you may want to consider something more than water.
The following is some information about different types of drinks:
They contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium which the body loses through sweat. These are needed to keep fluid levels balanced for muscles to work properly. However, sports drinks are not necessary for the casual athlete and should not be consumed on a regular basis. Typical sports drinks often contain artificial sweeteners, and other ingredients that you may not want your child consuming. These are becoming increasingly popular with middle- and high-school students who are looking for a competitive edge. Some of these drinks are labeled unsuitable for children. Some are specifically marketed to kids claiming they boost energy and athletic performance.
Most energy drinks deliver a large dose of sugar and caffeine, both of which can have significant negative impact on kids including weight gain, ability to concentrate, headaches, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. Energy drinks pose a real health risk for kids and teens and should be avoided.
Kids who participate in sports should learn that they can improve their game through hard work and practice — values that will serve them well both on and off the field. These come in a variety of flavors and different vitamin and mineral supplementation. They also may contain artificial sweeteners and herbal ingredients that have not been studied in kids. Vitamin waters may look like a quick way to fill any nutrition gaps in your child’s diet, but these nutrients can come from a healthy meal or snack. The best place for kids to get daily nutrients is from balanced meals. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t getting enough, talk to your doctor, who may recommend a daily multivitamin formulated for kids.
For those of you who feel like water may just not be quite enough for your child, but don’t want them drinking artificial sweeteners and other additives, try making your own hydration drink!
There are a few nutrients that you want to include when trying to replenish your stores after strenuous prolonged exercise. Carbohydrate for energy, potassium, sodium, and magnesium and the main electrolytes needed. Coconut water is a great natural source of electrolytes. It is low in calories making it a great natural hydration drink on its own. Coconut water does have a very distinct and unique flavor which some kids might not like. I personally love the flavor, and drink it straight from the bottle. For our hydration drink we added 100% juice to enhance the flavor and also add some carbs for energy.
This Natural Hydration Drink Recipe is as simple as pouring your ingredients in a blender, and blending for a minute! This recipe makes about 1 quart of hydration drink. If you feel like it needs a little sweetness, raw honey is a great choice for this drink. Honey is comprised of mainly glucose and fructose, and studies have shown it to be a great carbohydrate source for performance athletes.
We originally used pomegranate juice in our drink, but after taste testing found that it was a little too intense for the kids. So our next batch we used 100% apple juice, and they liked that much better. You can make a double batch of this and store in mason jars in your fridge for those times when you need to grab it and go.