If you attend kids’ sporting events and pay attention, you encounter Gatorade everywhere. From the tiniest seven-year-old soccer girls to the most hulking teenage baseball players, parents are plying their kids with it, presumably thinking they need to replace the kids’ electrolytes after strenuous exertion.
Two things on that.
1. There is absolutely no science here. In fact, the science shows the opposite: Unless you are doing many hours of intense exercise, plain water is simply the best way to re-hydrate (see more on this in the Harvard Health Journal). And, even then, there are much healthier ways to restore balance in your body because . . .
2. Gatorade drinks and bars are highly processed junk food. Let’s discuss.
First, the drinks. As one of my favorite health bloggers, Yoni Freedhoff, drolly demonstrates in this brief video, they are comprised of water, a few vitamins, some salt, dyes, and tons of sugar. I guarantee if you watch his video, you will not buy them any more, and, in fact, you will kick yourself for ever having bought them in the first place.
Next, the bars. Gatorade has, of course, gotten on the protein bandwagon—not that you can blame them, with the hype. As I’ve discussed, protein bars provide excessive sugar and calories, not to mention far more protein than you likely need in your daily diet. Many of them have nutrition labels that read like candy bar packages. Gatorade’s does for sure: seven teaspoons of sugar, nine grams of saturated fat, and a whopping 350 calories.
Here are some ideas on what to send your child for replenishment after sports. Always: A 16–20 ounce bottle of cold water. Optional: a piece of whole fruit; a small baggie of nuts or sunflower or pumpkin seeds maybe with some raisins or a few dried apricots; a modest portion of 100 percent whole-grain crackers with a low-fat organic cheese stick; a bar that contains only nuts and dried fruit; or a half a peanut butter or sunbutter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
By the way, most people are not very hungry the minute they cease exercising, so you are probably fine with just water and a piece of fruit. When your kid gets home and cleans up and comes down to the kitchen hungry, feed her a wholesome meal that truly replenishes—featuring a salad, a vegetable, some high quality protein, and perhaps a complex carbohydrate like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
If you want to help your child stay slim and get more fit and healthy, stay far away from processed junk food marketed to look like medical necessity. As one professor of sports science put it best in this much-quoted remark: For the average person, “if they avoided the sports drinks they would get thinner and run faster.”