Q. My son insists on drinking sports drinks instead of water when playing sports. Isn’t water adequate?
A. It depends on what sport and how long he’s playing. If he’s active for less than an hour, water should be adequate. But for sustained activities longer than an hour, sports drinks are appropriate. As your son uses up readily available stores of electrolytes and carbohydrates, he needs to start replacing them, and a sports drink is an easy way to do that. It helps prevent a drop in energy from a lack of readily available glucose.
In warmer weather, he’ll sweat more, and it’s important to prevent dehydration with fluid replacement. However, overhydrating can cause problems as well. Aim for about 12 ounces an hour. Too much water can dilute the sodium in the bloodstream and is associated with collapse during exertion. On the other hand, too much sports drink may upset the stomach and provide too much sodium, causing water retention. Sports drinks diluted with an equal amount of water may be easier on the stomach.