September 16th, 2014

Sports Drinks and the Message We’re Sending Our Kids

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Groovy Green Livin sports drinks

Back to school means back to sports for many families across the country.

Along with sports comes sports drinks. With bright and enticing colors, they’ve become the go-to drink for players of every sport.

Who can blame a budding athlete? Sports drinks are marketed as a way for athletes to” re-fuel” during a game or competition.  They “provide fuel, fluid and nutrients before, during and after activity.”

Even if your child doesn’t play a team sport there’s no shortage of sports drinks. You’ll find them at birthday parties and in lunch and snack bags.

A fantastic marketing campaign has led us to believe that those sports drinks are nutritious as well as delicious. But the ingredient list on most sports drinks is far from healthy.

There’s a small amount of good news for fans of sports drinks 

After a big dose of consumer pressure, Gatorade removed the controversial brominated vegetable oil (BVO)-patented as a flame retardant that’s been banned in Europe and Japan- from all of its sports drinks. Yes, there was a flame retardant in Gatorade not too long ago.

Also, sports drinks are caffeine free, unlike energy drinks which are loaded with caffeine.

Unfortunately, there’s not much more good news for sports drinks.

What’s really in sports drinks?

Sports drinks are touted as healthy and nutritious, but their ingredient list tells a different story.

Here’s a sample ingredient list from a big sports drink company:


Remember the rule: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat (or drink) it.

After water the first 4 ingredients are sugar! Sugar is sugar, regardless of its name.

  • Isomaltulose=sugar
  • Sugar=sugar
  • Dextrose=sugar
  • Maltodextrin=sugar

And when asked why there are artificial colors (Yellow 5 & 6) in their products, they responded with this:

The colors in Gatorade provide visual appeal and help reinforce the flavor perception. They are also useful in helping our customers to quickly locate their favorite flavors as well as helping stock clerks group the flavors correctly on the store shelf. The colors used in Gatorade are certified by the FDA for use in beverages and reviewed for safety to the consumer.”

Pretty lame excuses for adding artificial coloring.

Why are doctors and nutritionists recommending sports drinks? 

I’m somewhat baffled by this one. Many seem to be taking the position that these sports drinks are replenishing your body with necessary nutrients after a workout. While I do understand the need to replenish your body with necessary nutrients, I’m just not convinced sports drinks provide the best way. They are filled with loads of sugar, artificial coloring, plus a long list of other ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. These sports drinks are adding unnecessary calories to our children’s diets-adding to the obesity epidemic.

Clearly this isn’t real food….or drink.

Maybe it’s time to focus on sending our kids a better message?

Why aren’t we, as a society and as parents, suggesting that our children drink water. Gasp. Yes, water. So simple, low calorie and just one pronounceable ingredient.

What are your thoughts on sports drinks? Do your kids drink them? No judgment, would just love to get the conversation going.


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 photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc

21 Responses to “Sports Drinks and the Message We’re Sending Our Kids”

  1. When our kids played soccer, they had to have their snack from the concession stand and that was the only type of drink the offered. I wasn’t happy at all (not to mention the snack choices, which didn’t include any fresh fruit). I admit, they have had them on very rare occasion and I have, too, but very, very rarely. We are water, milk and sometimes 100% juice family.
    Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? recently posted..Get your pictures printed | Social Print Studio GiveawayMy Profile

  2. We’ve always had our girls drink water and at 11 and 14, they both grab glasses of ice water all day long. Some parents have told me their kids “hate water” and I think, “how can that be??” I can only imagine they weren’t given water frequently as toddlers and young children. So sad. (And silly.)

  3. I completely agree – this stuff is garbage. I chuckle sometimes when I see the bright blue liquid, it’s kind of absurd what we think is ok to put in our bodies. I love my homemade gatorade of fresh lemon, pinch of salt and a little honey or sugar.
    Lindsay recently posted..Win top shelf beauty essentials (plus DIY recipes)My Profile

  4. Ugg! You are right – there is no benefit to that stuff. It’s frustrating that there is a perception that sports drinks are healthier than soda when they really aren’t at all.
    Micaela @MindfulMomma recently posted..Juice Beauty’s Instant Eye Lift {Giveaway}My Profile

  5. I know Micaela- I look at the bright colors and cringe. It amazes me how often they’re offered to teams without hesitation. How do we change this perception?

  6. Your homemade gatorade sounds delish Lindsay! I’m not sure my kids would like it- what do you think?

  7. My kids are big water drinkers too Janelle. That’s what we generally have with all of our meals. There was a time when my kids drank juice, but then it got out of hand. We are back to water only!

  8. I know Krystyn- those concession stands are the worst! I think everything’s OK in moderation. Having them occasionally works- I think the bottom line is most people don’t understand that there’s a lot of sugar and artificial coloring in sports drinks. It’s important to be informed and then make a choice.

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  10. We don’t participate in organized sports so this isn’t a big issue for us yet. We did have a kinder parent bring it as part of a “snack” for the class (???). I’m not sure why kids can’t drink water and eat a piece of fruit. The ingredient list of those things is atrocious.

  11. Can’t believe anyone is recommending these drinks!
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted..Even Meat Labeled “No Nitrates or Nitrites Added” Contains Harmful NitritesMy Profile

  12. My boys are really small still so we haven’t tried them. It’s all water and the occassional juice for an outing here.
    Sara Vartanian recently posted..Explore Ontario’s Greenbelt with #ONGreenbelt Twitter ChatsMy Profile

  13. Unfortunately school and sports concession stands are the worst for things like this. Bring your own (stainless steel) bottled water instead & feed kids real food like fruit/grains for energy. That’s what we do for sports meets.

  14. Well said. I guess water just isn’t as sexy as all those hyped up sugar ingredients but it sure is better for humans! I like to fancy up my water with a little squeeze of real lemon juice and a few mint leaves from my garden! 🙂

  15. Yikes! Amazing to me what is in them. My kiddos are luckily stuck on water. Just perfect for us! 😉

  16. Our kids are not allowed to drink any kind of sports drink unless they have the flu, and then we dilute with water per our pediatrician’s orders.

    That being said, I confess to drinking them myself after a heavy workout. I do follow it up with tons of water, but I’m not sure I should even be drinking them in the first place because of all the obvious reasons.

    Do what I say, not what I do?
    Pilar recently posted..‘Pinkalicious’ is coming to the small screen, kids.My Profile

  17. Hear hear! It drives me absolutely crazy when, after a game, out come the brightly colored Gatorade. Worse yet, is when, as you mention, medical professionals recommend this stuff. Craziness.
    Green Bean recently posted..8 Ways to Save Water in Your GardenMy Profile

  18. Pretty much the only time I’ve ever had a sports drink was while hiking. Powdered Gatorade added to some of our water was a pick me up that we definitely burned along the trail.
    Drew Bennett recently posted..Father Son Day Trip to New York CityMy Profile

  19. I completely agree with everything that has been said. My kids drink water or a tiny amount of real fruit juice dilated in water and that is all. No fizzy rubbish at all. Now I have been asked to design a bottle and label for a sports drink as a college assignment…….I’d love to design it with kids who do sport in mind, but not agreeing with the whole concept I’m having problems deciding how to approach it and make it acceptable with parents like you and me.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  20. Interesting issue Nicola. Maybe consider using only water and having a cute label- shedding light on the fact that water is the best sports drink around. Would love to see what you end up doing.

  21. What an excellent suggestion Lori !!

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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