Kids and Sports Drinks


I’ve heard kids shouldn’t drink sports drinks – my kid is very active, runs hard, and plays competitive sports.  What’s your recommendation?

Kelli’s Answer:

Just like you’ve noted in your question, it simply depends on the activity your child is participating at, and at what level of intensity.

For most young kids under 8 years of age, I recommend water as the primary hydration for activity.  This said, if your kid is actively competing or playing hard, they can easily get too low on energy.  In this case I recommend a 1:1 juice:water mix – this will provide some carbohydrates in addition to the fluid.  Additionally, if they are able to eat solids during the activity, raisins, organic fig newtons, and 100% all-fruit strips are easy-to-digest carbs.

For older kids or those in highly competitive and intense activities, there is a real possibility of dehydration and too little electrolytes.  For these kids, I believe a sports drink is okay.  If you want to avoid a lot of the chemical flavorings and colorings, which is wise, you can use a modified version of my HomeBrew Recipe:

Mix 48 ounces water, 16 ounce 100% juice (any flavor), 1/4 cup table sugar, 1/16 tsp Morton’s lite salt (73 mg sodium and 87 mg potassium), 1/16 tsp table salt (150 mg sodium).  You may have to adjust the salt to taste.  Drink 16 oz. per hour for 30 gm carbs, 56 mg sodium, and 42+ mg potassium per hour.

And again, sports bars, raisins, organic fig newtons, and 100% fruit strips can provide extra carbs.

Many doctors and medical authorities are discouraging the use of sports drinks for youth – but, I believe this is largely due to the growing issue of obesity in children.  Sports drinks are absolutely not appropriate for kids (or adults) who are not being physically active at the time.  They should not be consumed throughout the day by anyone, but only during high-level physical activity.  They are designed to provide, quick, efficient energy for athletes, but will absolutely promote fat gain for anyone who does not immediately use that quick, efficient energy (refined carbohydrates).

I hope this helps!  Take care!

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

  • Kids Behealthy

    Sports drinks are high in sugar, salt, colourings and preservatives. It literally rots their teeth. The sugar and salt combines with the bacteria in their mouths to cause tooth decay.Kids certainly need to keep hydrated and water is the best drink for fitness for kids. The human body is 70% water and the brain is 80%. Therefore for kid exercise it is imperative that they consume plenty of water.

  • Jase Rodley

    “…raisins, organic fig newtons, and 100% all-fruit strips are easy-to-digest carbs.”

    Coupled with water, I couldn’t agree more. Something I like to do as an adult is soak say 15 dates in water for at least an hour (overnight is best), then blend them up for a mid-ride energy drink. I got the idea from a friend that calls it “Datorade”.

    Healthy, clean carbs. Can’t go wrong!

    • Kelli

      Awesome Jase, thanks for the “clean carb” sports drink comment!  Love it!

  • Michael Deming

    Parents from my 5 year old’s baseball team regularly give their kids Gatorade and/or whatever colorful, eye catching bottle that references “sports” on the label that can be purchased at any and every gas station or grocery store. I don’t know most of them very well and don’t feel comfortable confronting them about it, but they clearly think they’re doing the right thing for their kids. Their education on sports hydration is obviously coming from TV advertisements and cursory scans of the labels in the drink isle.