Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is Gatorade Good For Kids?

For people who like straight answers, you’re not going to like this one. The answer is, it depends.
Gatorade is a sports drink. Sports drinks are different from protein drinks, meal replacement drinks, vitamin drinks, recovery drinks, fitness waters, endurance drinks, and recreational drinks like Kool-Aid and colas. Each drink has a specific purpose (we will talk about each of these in future articles), but the purpose of quality sports drinks is three fold.
1. Hydration
2. Replacing glycogen stores (sugar that is stored in the liver and muscles)
3. Replacing electrolytes

We will use Gatorade as our example because it was the first of the major sports drinks. It was created by physicians and researchers at the University of Florida in 1965 to combat some of the problems facing the school’s football team. The players were suffering from cramps, exhaustion and a host of other problems caused by training in the area’s hot and humid conditions. The researchers discovered that the players were not drinking enough water or replacing the electrolytes and glycogen that was lost through sweat and exercise.

Soon after the drinks introduction, the team began winning. The athletes were recovering faster and outlasting their opponents on the field. They went on to win the Orange Bowl for the first time. Soon other universities wanted it, NFL teams ordered it and the rest is history. The drink, originally called Gatorpiss by the players, was wanted by teams everywhere. They changed the name, because the old one didn’t bode well for marketing purposes, and called it Gatorade.

Gatorade has been well researched. My brother in-law, another health professor at UNLV, actually participated in some of the earlier studies. It, and other drinks, contain the formula that seems to work best for hydrating and replacing sugars and electrolytes. That is for every 8 ounces of water, there should be 14 grams of easily digested carbohydrates, about 110 mg of sodium, and 30 mg of potassium.

So now that we know a bit more about these drinks, are they good for kids?

Remember, these drinks are primarily to hydrate and to replace glycogen stores so that athletes can feed muscles, delay fatigue, play longer, and recover better. They also replace electrolytes lost from sweat, but you have to be really sweating for hours to have to worry much about electrolytes. So if your child has been working out and sweating for at least 45 minutes, the answer is probably yes, drink a sports drink. If your child is just hanging out playing video games, the answer is definitely no, drink water.

Besides being expensive, sports drinks contain quite a few calories and can easily contribute to weight gain if the calories are not used properly. It is no big secret that kids and adults these days are heavier than they have ever been. Obesity leads to a host of health problems, some of them serious, deadly serious.

An 8 ounce glass of Gatorade has about 3.5 teaspoons of sugar, (but who drinks 8 ounces?). Most people drink a 24 to 32 ounce jug. That means they are drinking 10 to 14 teaspoons of extra sugar, about the same as a can of soda! That’s about 200 calories of lack luster nutrition. No vitamins, plant chemicals, fiber, protein, healthy fats: just simple water, sugar and salt.

Something else to consider with these sugary drinks is the effect that they have on blood sugar levels. When someone has just worked out, they need to replace lost carbohydrate stores. It is good for them to do so. But if they haven’t worked out, these drinks increase blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise and fall too many times, insulin problems occur and this can lead to Type II Diabetes. No one wants their kids to get Type II Diabetes.

Another concern is salt. There have been cases of kids, at even 5 to 8 years old, getting kidney stones. It makes sense that with all of the added salt in the processed food people eat today, we closely monitor what our children eat and drink.

Also, in recent years, there has been an increase in cavities. Many health professionals believe that this is because of the combination of sugar and acids found in sodas, juices, and yes sports drinks. The more kids drink these drinks, the bigger the chance of tooth decay.

So now you probably think I am “down” on sports drinks. The opposite is true. We drink them almost every day. Are we hypocrites? No. Here’s why.

We drink sports drinks after we work out, and so do our kids. After a good work out, the body needs to replace what was lost during exertion. Research shows that if what was lost is replaced correctly, it is very beneficial to the body. When people drink water, they tend to drink one glass and then stop before they are fully hydrated. Sports drinks contain the right amount of sugar, not only to replenish glycogen stores, but to keep the person drinking until they are hydrated. There is also not too much sugar, as with juices and other drinks that can cause gas and digestion difficulties after exercise.

When should we drink sports drinks?

First, you should always replenish liquids within 30 minutes of exercising, the sooner the better. During this time, your cells will actually allow more absorption of the nutrients they need. The next time you work out, you will have a bit more muscle glycogen stored which may increase performance. You should also drink while you are exercising, if you are going to continue past 45 minutes to an hour. As we said before, this helps feed the muscles and delay fatigue, helping you give a better performance longer.

We like the powdered version of Gatorade which you make at home. Not only is it less expensive and doesn’t come in the plastic bottles, it contains sucrose and dextrose instead of high fructose corn syrup as the main carbohydrate. Here are some other tips.

1. For workouts 45 minutes or less, water is the best. Just make sure your kids are actually drinking it. Water is calorie free, it helps to clean teeth, and it is hard to drink too much of it. You can try fitness waters, but there is no evidence that the little bit of vitamins or minerals in these drinks will improve athletic performance. They do contain just enough sugar to encourage kids to drink more. (Just try to avoid those with artificial sweeteners.)

2. Drink a sports drink if you have been sweating and or working out for about 45 minutes or more. Besides replacing lost sugar and electrolytes, these drinks taste better than water so people tend to drink more and hydrate better.

3. During really hot days and /or longer workouts, you can try endurance drinks. These still have the 14 grams of carbohydrates per cup, but they also add a bit more sodium and potassium to maintain electrolyte levels for long bouts of exercise or competitions.

Other hydrating options for those who are not in serious training include mixing a solution of one part water to one part 100% fruit juice, which is pretty good for you and doesn't have too many carbohydrates which may upset your stomach. You can also try making your own sports drink by taking a powdered drink packet like Kool-aid and mixing it in two quarts of water but only using half of a cup of sugar. Then sprinkle in two or three good shakes of salt.

Sports Drinks, Better Than Water?
What to Drink When,7120,s6-242-302--10086-0,00.html
Gatorade History


  1. I really enjoyed this blog and i think i have something from my own personal opinion to add to this. I love my Dr. Pepper, but i know that i shouldn't drink it as much because it has so much sugar. Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Water is so good for us, our cells depend on it to survive. water is helpful in weight loss, as well as brain activity and functioning. I'm not saying that other drinks are bad to drink while you work out, but in my opinion, water has helped me feel the best.

  2. I agree that sport drinks can be a great thing for athletes or for a higher intensity workout but I see so many people drinking them as just an enjoyable beverage. Not Good! My little brothers chug them down all the time when they aren't working out despite my attempts to advise them not to. I wish we could get more people to drink more water and less of the unhealthy drinks they seem to love.

  3. That is hilarious that they called it "gatorpiss." It definitely gave me a good laugh. I am a big supporter and advocate for Gatorade. Water is excellent, but Gatorade replenishes so much more than just fluid. Maybe I would stick with drinking water regularly, but when you are working out or you are in a hard game Gatorade is a much better option if it is available. Great post on I love it.

  4. I guess I am the oddball and the traditional person......I am an active person. I believe that children as well as adults need to drink water more and pure juices.......The right kinds of juices can be used; they are as effective and better and it replaces all the necessary nutrient after hours of physical training and competition! Man made artificial stuff should be avoided........and most of time it is more expensive!

  5. I usually just drink water while I work out and exercise. This past summer though, I ran the Wasatch Back Relay and was so grateful for Gatorade and Powerade. I never would have gotten the electrolytes I need for my next run if it hadn't have been for the sports drinks. I have one friend though, who always has his Gatorade with him saying, "Have Gatorade, will travel." I think this might be a bit much!

  6. As it just so happens, I am sitting at my computer, reading this article, and drinking a Gatorade. Now, I haven't even exercised yet today, I simply enjoy drinking Gatorade. After reading this article however and actually thinking about my actions I realize it is kind of foolish. I have stopped drinking soda completely and replaced it with water. I guess I should consider doing the same with my inappropriate Gatorade drinking.

  7. I agree with this artical. We carry water and gatorade in the back of our car all year long. My kids are very athletic. They both play soccer in the fall and the spring and basketball in the winter. I encourage them to drink a bottle while they play. However I buy the G2 gatorate. It has less calories and lass sugar but all of the same good stuff. this is robert sawyer

  8. I realize that kids need hydration but I think a lot of the need for these sport drinks is due to advertising. The children get caught up in the facts that they will get better and stay in the game longer if they consume these drinks just like the pros. This is a good rule of thumb to follow on when a sports drink should be consumed versus water.

  9. I too have been shocked to the truth about my sport drinking. I love propel and gatorade, but i find myself drinking it most often because i do not like the taste of the watcer at the school i work at. However, I guess i need to make more of an effort to put a water in the fridge at night to take to work. Thank you. I found this funny and informative.

  10. I'm not a fan of most sport drinks, however my daughter is. Typically, I have a 32 oz bottle of water with me everyday. I have started making my daughter drink water before she can have any flavored water or gatorade. After reading this article I don't think I'll be letting her having them anymore, she is much better off with plain water. Thank you for the information.

  11. I have never really been a gatorade fan, I don't drink it very often even when I was playing sports or exercising. I just stick with water I know its good for me and it keeps me feeling healthier.

  12. I love sport drinks. I can totally agree with the idea that to just drink it when playing a video game or some other activity is a bad idea. I would drink one every day in high school when I was just sitting in class and I felt like I never had the energy I wanted and finally asked the trainer if it was bad. I changed and only drank it during and after practice and saw a big difference with my daily energy levels. I also really liked the Kool Aid with 1/2 sugar and a bit of salt, I'm definetly going to try that!

  13. This article has great information. My husband is a huge mountain biker and they are sometimes on their bikes in Moab for almost 8 hours a day. My son and I will hike all day while they are gone. I am not a fan of sport drinks so I stick to water and I will get a juice afterward if I feel the need for a pick me up. My son loves gatorade and my husband will take it with him on his rides. We only buy gatorade during the summer when we are most active, the rest of the year water is perfect.
    There is one thing that puzzles me, my doctor has told me that giving gatorade to my son when he is sick is great. Is is giving him to much sugar or salt that may upset him tummy more than having him drink plane water. I don't give him juice because I don't want the sugars to uspet his stomach, but I didn't think gatorade had that much sugar and he seems to do alright with it. Is this ok? Or, should I stick to pedialite which doesn't taste as good.

  14. Great question. It is probably fine to give your child Gatorade when they are sick. There is half as much sugar as drinks like Kool-aid and if he will drink it and it doesn't upset his stomach that will help him stay hydrated. Pedialyte is probably best, but the taste is not great. Juice drinks that are 100 percent juice are great too, if he can tolerate them. You can water them down a bit if needed.

  15. I was interested in this article right from the title. My wife and I drink a lot of gatorade, and it is just convenient to put some in my 2 year olds cup. She likes the taste, and is happy with it. She is an active little child, but I will probably make plans to stop giving it too her and stick to 100% juices and water or milk. It was very informitive and helpful. Thanks!

  16. So the kids I nanny ALWAYS drink gatorade when they are sick. At their house, if someone throws up, it's time to go to the store and buy some gatorade! I always thought it was strange, but I guess it works for them, and keeps them hydrated.
    Very informative article though. I really love sports drinks, but I should probably be better at only rewarding myself with them after I exercise!

  17. I agree with this article. I think that Gatorade and other sports drinks are okay, but only if you are using them correctly. I know that after I get back from an hour run, the only things I want to do are crash on my front lawn, and drink some kind of flavored drink, usually Gatorade. But I don't think it is good if we just drink it all day everyday.

  18. This article was very interesting. I am a fan of drinking sports drinks when I work out, especially Gatorade. I never knew that one needs to be working out for a certain amount of time for the Gatorade to actually be good for us. I've always figured water would be the best situation, but Gatorade keeps the body hydrated when playing intense sports. I'm not sayint that Gatorade is better than water, but that Gatorade wouldn't hurt either.

  19. this article to me is very interesting. i already knew that gatorade was good for and that it depends on how much you work out.

    senserx, trish

  20. I did not realize there was a time to drink a sports drink such as gatorade and a time not to. I also did not realize how much sugar is in it and how it can affect you in a negative way if you are not exercising/sweating for more than 45 minutes.

  21. I also like to drink my DR.Pepper. I know that it is not good for my health. Water is the best to drink. Gatorade, in my opinion is meant for athletes. When we went on a hike for scouts, instead of water, my scout master had us all drink gatorade when we went on our hike.

  22. Sports drinks like gatorade are probably not the best for kids unless they are involved in sports. They arent made for children who sit in front of the tv all day. If children are athletic I can see the use however if they are not, it's just drinking a sugary drink.

  23. I really liked this article from the beginning. I really loved learning the facts about Gatorade because honestly lately I’ve had questions about it. Gatorade has always been my favorite drink. I’m very active and will always drink a Gatorade after my games although I can’t drink them during games. A couple of weekends ago I went on a trip and all I had to drink the whole trip was Gatorade and I felt almost sick it was weird but it kind of makes sense now. I should have been drinking water cause I wasn’t doing anything active on the trip so shouldn’t of been drinking the Gatorade.

  24. This article was so interesting. I have a four year old and she is constantly thirsty. I try to shy away from juices with a lot of sugar and the like, but I can't get her to drink very much water, so I turned to Gatorade. I figured that it would hydrate her and restore what was lost in her body as she played. After reading this article I feel that, while Gatorade can be very beneficial, I should probably try to get to her to drink more water.

  25. Love this blog!! Its great to hear about things that actually matter when it comes to common, daily health. Growing up, my Mom never let us kids have gatorade because she feared all the sugar in it. Its nice to see that what she said is true to a point, but also that it contains other important things needed by kids and adults. My wife likes Smart Water, mostly because it still has those extra electrolytes, but does not have the sugar. Plus the bottle has a cool fish on it ; )

  26. This was a really neat blog to read about. I agree that gatorade truly does help you keep your performance level up for a bit longer when you are running for a long period of time. However, I usually just stick with water to replenish my body and to keep me going. I too am guilty of drinking gatorade when I haven't exercised all day. The drink is really quite delightful, but after reading this article, I probably should stick with the water.

  27. Thanks for puting this article here. It was very informative to me. It helps with my argument to my kid about why he doesn't always need a Gatorade. He drinks it when playing basketball, all the time, but then when we go to the store for a quick drink he will also grab one. Now I can argue logically, more than the mom "Because I said No" answer.

  28. i enjoyed reading this blog. Im a athlete so i know how important it is to have gatorade or powerade we need to the electrolytes and we also need to be hydrated

  29. Very intersting article, i have really never thought of the health implications that sports drinks can have on the young ones. I will definitley think twice when giving my child something to drink. Thanks for the helpful information.

  30. This is a very good article. I have never really drank Gatorade, I always drink water. Everyone has always said that Gatorade is the best to drink after sports but when I played Volleyball we just drank water.
    Kayla Kvilvang

  31. I enjoyed this article as well. I too am an adjunct teacher and have tried to tell my students about the "sport drink" dilemma. It is nice to hear someone else mention the same thing as well. The scary part is that people are now drinking energy drinks like they would drink a sport drink.

  32. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  33. All you people are idiots. I'm a pedi.and I can tell u that children from 9 months to 5 years burn more energy than than even athletes. They exaust themselfs more frequently than a 20 year old football player.
    I can't tell you how many times I get kids in my office that are dehydrated and will not drink the infant hydration drinks simple cause there nasty.
    So, let's examine gatorade.
    Calories 80
    The calorie is a measure of how much energy is in a product that a human can use. Formula for babies as high calories 100 or so per serving 4 to 6 times a day. Oh calories are not bad, being lazy.
    Total fat 0
    Infant drinks the same.
    Formula 5.5 grams.
    Oh no I fed my baby fat! We all need fat. A lot less fat if we're being lazy.
    Sodium 160 mg
    That is actually 40 mg less than infant drinks. Enough said
    Potassium 45 mg.
    Lack of potassium is one of the leading causes of infant cardiac arrest. While to much can do the same. This number is within the limits.
    Sugars 21 grams.
    Your infant drinks have the same sugars. Formula the same but more.
    Here is my point if child has played hard its ok to give gatorade just 8oz once a day until hydrated then stop. And quit bellyaching.

  34. I babysit aa four year old whose mom constantly gives him gatorade to drink.i find this very dangerous to his health.any surgestions?

  35. i really dont know if gatorade is okay for kids my siblings love gatorade and i dont know if its bad or good for them

  36. You talk about athletes & kids, but you do not mention the elderly. I am 86 and wheneverI have diarrhea, or believe I need hydration, I drink G2 instead of water. I do not like the taste of water, and I have trouble swallowing it. Therefore, if I believe I need hydration fast, I drink G2 which seems to work.