The beverage industry produces enough soda for every American to consume 52-gallons each year. Although its a mind-boggling amount, the fact of the matter is their industry is stagnating. With soda sales flat, theyre turning to newer products. One of their most popular markets is the educational system. Marketed under the guise of being healthier than plain water, and an implication they are more efficient at meeting hydration needs, sports drinks have become a prominent fixture in many schools. But do they meet those claims, or are they just contributing to the obesity epidemic among U.S. children?
Research by the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that for exercise lasting less than one hour, water is the preferred method of meeting hydration needs. Their research suggests that the loss of electrolytes and carbohydrates from exercise meeting this requirement does not require the burst supplied by sports drinks that one typically gets from a modern sports drink. Their research also has shown that for activities lasting more than one hour, or occurring under intense heat, there are benefits to using sports drinks for hydration. The rapid and continuous loss of minerals under these conditions presents a risk to participants, and replenishing them rapidly improves hydration and athletic performance.
Interestingly enough, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the consumption of water, or a salt-containing flavored beverage to maintain hydration. Not only do they suggest such drinks, but the recommend children consume them regularly, regardless of whether they are thirsty.
Nutritional experts are beginning to question the need for having sports drinks available to kids during regular school hours. The logic of such an argument is that the activities occurring during regular school hours can not justify the extra calories kids consume when drinking these drinks. It has also been suggested that the extra electrolytes, which are just salt compounds, may even contribute to rising blood pressure among kids, when consumed in the absence of physical exertion. While the suggestions are controversial, most regulators are recommending limiting access during school hours, but making these beverages available during after school events and practices.
It seems inevitable that eventually, these drinks will be deemed of little nutritional or functional value for regular school day activities. After all, it doesnt seem reasonable to assume that kids or teens are at risk of becoming deficient in electrolytes while walking between classes. While they certainly offer benefits when consumed during intense exercise, theres little evidence to support the idea that they offer any positive benefits for normal day-to-day activity.