Better Than Gatorade

Anyone who has known Earth Girl over the years has learned that I have a great detest for sports drinks! Whereas the original intention behind the concept was based in appropriate science, the explosion of the popularity of these drinks has contributed to an over sugared, overweight youth sports emergency! Somewhere along the line, professional athletes starting promoting sports drinks. Athletes were sweating oranges, greens and blues, and chugging gallons of these liquids while jumping higher, running faster and tackling harder. You weren’t a real athlete unless you drank them! And when it was your turn to bring the post game snack as a parent, it was assumed you would bring the brightly colored, highly flavored drink.

Take a step back and lets look at the bigger picture. Most children participating in youth sports don’t have the urgent need to replace large volumes of electrolytes. Yes, kids may sweat during a game and they will get thirsty. But the number of electrolytes lost and calories burned is typically very small. The number of calories most youth sports burn (let’s think mainly through middle school) is minimal. Some of the tee-ball and coach pitch baseball games I have spectated at are about as active as sitting on the couch watching tv! But the kids sit with their 36 ounce super, giant bottle of sports drink and probably put more calories in their body than they burn off. Hmm…looks like the opposite of what we are trying accomplish in our youth athletic programs. The vast majority of children eat so many processed foods full of salt, that their next meal likely contains any salt they may have lost (if any) during their game or event.

So what to do? Let’s be smart with our youth. There may be rare occasions when a sports drink might be warranted, such as an extremely hot soccer tournament where the kids are playing two to three games in a day. But when it comes to basic re-hydration, water is “king!” Too much sugar from too many sports drinks can actually inhibit the absorption of the water and slows down the re-hydration process. Sports drinks have been know to create cramps when athletes are significantly dehydrated.

What are your best options to make sure your youth athlete is ready for his or her next game? Drink plenty of plain water before, during and after the event. If the kids want something sweet and brightly colored…try watermelon or orange slices. Both of these fruits are full of water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and, yes, are sweet tasting. Cucumbers are also a great way to put water back in the body after an event since they are about 97% water. Of course, apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe and an assortment of other fruits would have positive health benefits after any youth sporting event.

Earth Girl suggests making the transition to a healthier youth sports environment. Let’s teach our youth about what constitutes the best nutrition for athletes…whole foods from the earth, not neon colored sports drinks!

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