Sport Drinks and Juice Beverages

Many people incorrectly think sports drinks and juice beverages are a healthy choice.  After all, doesn’t juice provide vitamins and minerals?  Aren’t sports drinks full of needed electrolytes?  The answer – it depends on how much and how often you consume these beverages.

Drinking juice or sports drinks throughout the day can add up to 300 or more extra calories in a person’s diet.  A 15-ounce bottle of orange juice has 220 calories and 48 grams of sugar (or 12 teaspoons of sugar), and a 20-ounce bottle of PowerAde has 175 calories and 37.5 grams of sugar (or over 9 teaspoons of sugar).  Look for next week’s posting of Gatorade.

Don’t be fooled by the word “sport” on the label.  These drinks are being advertised as “liquid hydration” and “electrolyte replacement” for young, active children.  But what are electrolytes anyway?

Electrolytes are the minerals sodium, potassium and chloride, and they are abundantly found in many foods, e.g., breads, eggs, nuts, meats and milk.  It is true that a body does need these minerals, but rarely does a body lose them.  Only the ultimate athlete, tri-athlete or marathon runner may be at risk of losing electrolytes.  Children who exercise for an hour or play sports for two hours are not losing electrolytes, but they can become dehydrated.  Replenishing lost fluids with water should be  the objective – not replenishing lost fluids with high calorie and high sugary drinks.

Obviously the negative effects from consuming too many of these drinks significantly outweigh their moderate nutritional benefits.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of 7 and 18 drink only 8 to 12 ounces of juice a day.

Children are drinking too many calories on a regular basis and they are gaining weight from the very same beverages that parents think are healthy.  Most parents want to be more conscientious about the right drink choice but misleading advertisments make it confusing.  Remember the Hawaiian Punch posting (September 15, 2009).  The label on this 20-ounce bottle is telling consumers that it offers 100% of the daily Vitamin C requirment.  Yet, it also offers 300 calories and 18 teaspoons of sugar.

Take the time to read drink labels.  Don’t forget to multiply the number of calories and sugar grams by the number of servings – what looks like 15 grams of sugar for a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade is actually 60 grams once you do the math (15 grams x 4 servings = 60 grams).  Don’t forget to divide this number by 4 in order to get the teaspoon amount (a more familiar measurement) – 15 teaspoons.

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