Energy Gels and Sports Drinks for Kids? – I am just now catching up on older blogs!





I hope you are all having a fantastic weekend!!  It seems that kids’  sports are in full swing and the weather is fantastic for getting outside and moving your bodies.  I certainly hope you have made a little time for exercise this weekend!
After my rant about food last week, it occurred to me that some kids (and adults too) may think that beyond Gatorade, those packets and blocks of carbohydrate replenishment, mainly things like GU Energy Gels and Shot Blocks to name a couple of the products on the market, are perfectly fine to eat as a snack before or during exercise.  Like Gatorade, these products are meant to replenish carbohydrate and mineral loss from EXTREME sweating during INTENSE exercise that lasts over an hour!  To put it into perspective, when I ran marathons, I would take a small piece of a Powerbar or 1 GU packet with me on a 20 mile training run that often included running up to Skyline Drive, to replenish the glycogen stores in my liver that would give me an extra boost to make it through the last 5-7 miles.  I would maybe drink a few sips of Gatorade and take 1 GU packets during the entire marathon! That is what these products are for, they are for GLYCOGEN REPLACEMENT during exercise when you cannot stop and take in real food as it would cause you to slow down and maybe even give you intestinal distress.  They are easy to ingest and easy to digest during intense exercise.
So let me give you all my reasons why these ARE NOT MEANT FOR KIDS’ SNACKS:
1.  Look at the ingredients in the image above, it is basically sugar (carbohydrate), salt, and chemical preservatives.  Maltodextrin is CHEAP SUGAR that does not have to be declared in the “sugars” section of the nutritional label, it can be listed as carbohydrate. This is why it says the product only contains 5g of sugars when in fact, it really contains 25g of sugars!  This IS NOT FOOD!!!!!  All this will do is give your child a sugar buzz, complete with an insulin spike and all the other negative effects of sugar.  KIDS DO NOT NEED MORE SUGAR!!!!!
2.  Kids believe that whatever you allow them to eat is “good for them” and safe to consume.  They need to understand why these products are on the market so they can make a better choice. As I mentioned above, these products have no real nutritional value and are just empty calories unless your child is running a half marathon, doing a competitive triathlon, or involved in some other endurance event.  Some of these products also contain a jolt of caffeine, which along with the sugar, gives your child an even larger insulin spike (NOT GOOD).
3.  Speaking of caffeine, those 5 hour energy drinks – NEVER LET YOUR CHILD CONSUME 5 HOUR ENERGY DRINKS, RED BULL, MONSTER DRINKS, etc.  The problem with these is that consuming too many can lead to DEATH!  So, if your child thinks they are safe because you (the parent) are allowing them to drink them, then what happens when they get into high school or college and need to stay up all night to finish a project and they drink 5?  What if they drink too many and get behind the wheel of a car?  What if they start mixing alcohol in their Red Bull?  Can you see where I am going with this?!  Teenagers are NOTORIOUS for making bad choices, so the more you can educate your kids on WHY these products are dangerous, the better!!!  I have cardiologist friends who refer to Red Bull as “death bull” – do I need to say more??
4.  Snacks and post exercise fuel for kids and adults should be REAL food, not food created in a lab!  Try giving your kids half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter before they exercise and a small glass of chocolate milk after they exercise.  Both options are giving your child the right combination of carbohydrate, fat, and protein needed for pre and post exercise fuel.  If you need carbohydrate during exercise, try watermelon or orange slices, both are easily digested and offer a good source of sugar!
5.  Your child could easily go through their day consuming only processed food day after day, cereal for breakfast, lunch meat, crackers, fruit snacks for lunch, snack bars or energy gels and drinks for snack, pasta with sauce out of a jar for dinner.  I know it takes more work to make sure your kids are getting real food at every meal and snack, but IT IS WORTH THE EFFORT!!
I know by now you all think I am the food police, and my family may never get another invitation for dinner again, but I am really on this journey with you, I promise!  I am completely guilty of buying my very passionate third child shot blocks a couple of times, until I realized that he kept asking for them and thought they were food!  I just try to keep the concept of “moderation” in mind with my kids, but what I have discovered is there is so much crap offered to them everywhere, that moderation is almost impossible unless we all work together to give our kids better choices.