What is the Difference Between Sport and Energy Drinks?

Sport drinks are flavored beverages that often contain carbohydrates minerals and electrolytes and sometimes other vitamins and nutrients.  They may have some benefit for the young athlete who participates regularly in endurance or high intensity sports when used in addition to plain water for hydration.  They are not recommended for general consumption or as a substitute for water due to their high calorie content and use of citric acid linked to obesity and dental erosion.

Energy drinks typically contain stimulants such as caffeine and guarana with varying amounts of sugar protein, vitamins, sodium and other minerals.  According to a recent study by the AAP some energy drinks can have as much as 14x the amount of caffeine found in the average cola product.  They can lead to difficulty sleeping, headaches, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and irregular heartbeat.  Depending on the amount of stimulant in the beverage, over use can cause toxicity and even death.    There is even the risk for physical dependence and addiction to the stimulants in these beverages.  Therefore energy drinks are never recommended for children or adolescents and should never be consumed by them.

By Patricia Callahan, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Pediatrics-Appleton