By Stephanie Walsh, M.D., Medical Director, Child Wellness, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
This spring my kids have been out on the soccer field, baseball field and on the basketball court (OK, our driveway!) a lot. With three kids, it is definitely a challenge to get everybody to the right practice or game, with the right uniform, at the right time, but it sure is a blast to watch them play!
I’ve had nightmares that I’ve arrived at a game, only to have one of my sons dressed in the wrong uniform for the wrong sport…but luckily this has not happened in real life…yet. Although I have gone to the wrong field at the wrong time.
At half time and after the game, the team usually gathers (sometimes under a shady tree) to hear advice from the coach and grab a snack and something to drink. I have to say, I have been horrified by some of the snacks and drinks I’ve seen on the sidelines: Chips. Sodas. Sports drinks. Cookies…the list goes on and on.
Snack time at kids’ sporting events is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m the mom sending an email out at the beginning of the season saying no snacks – and if we have to have them – then fruit and water.
Most kids who are playing soccer (or most other sports for that matter), which sometimes includes sitting on the bench, staring at the sky and picking grass, do not always need snacks.
You may wonder why “sports drinks” fit into this category of no-nos. Well, let me explain. They are not absolute “no-nos” (remember, nothing should be forbidden), but sports drinks are not necessary for kids most of the time.
The commercial below, from a popular sports drink brand, tells us that water is not enough and to be an elite athlete you need the edge and nutrients that sports drinks provide. That may be entirely appropriate for a professional athlete who is sprinting up and down the field for 90 minutes solid in a game and who practices for hours most days of the week.
The minerals, electrolytes, and carbohydrates found in sports drinks often come at a price; these drinks are high in calories, which can increase the risk for overweight and obesity. Plus, our bodies get the carbohydrates, calories vitamins and minerals they need for day-to-day activity from a well-balanced diet. Believe it or not, water is the best way to keep hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
Here are three quick tips to get you through the rest of soccer season:
- Save the occasional sports drink for the prolonged, vigorous exercise.
- Squeeze fresh fruit—like oranges or lemons—into a water bottle as a substitute for sports drinks. Maybe you could even provide your little one with a special water bottle for game day.
- A banana and water can go a long way toward helping replenish a body after exercise.
See you on the sidelines!