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Replace Sports and Energy Drinks With These Healthy Alternatives and Avoid Adolescent Problems

sports and energy drinks linked to unhealthy behaviors in adolescents

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the researchers gathered data from nearly 3,000 adolescents across 20 public middle and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the 2009-10 school year. The students gave information about their weight, height, and how often they consume sports or energy drinks. They also answered questions about how often they eat breakfast, how much physical activity they get, how much time they spend playing video games and watching TV, and whether or not they smoke.

Although the consumption of sports drinks was linked to higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, the researchers found that, overall, weekly consumption of these drinks was linked to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and excessive TV watching or video game playing.

Lead author Nicole Larson, PhD, said boys who regularly consumed sports drinks spent about one additional hour per week watching TV, compared with boys who consumed sports drinks less than once per week.

Boys who consumed energy drinks at least weekly also spent approximately four more hours per week playing video games, versus boys who consumed energy drinks less than once a week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents consume sports drinks only after vigorous and prolonged activity. The AAP also said that energy drinks should not be consumed because they offer no health benefits and increase the risk of overstimulation of the nervous system. Not only that, but too many energy drinks can lead to headaches, insomnia, and even cardiac arrest.

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A study published in the Journal of American College Health also found a link between energy drink consumption and risky behavior. Study author Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, said the research suggested that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with “toxic jock” behavior, such as substance abuse, violence, and unprotected sex.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 20 percent of teenagers who consume energy drinks believe they are safe.

Alternatives to sports and energy drinks

Coconut water

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, coconut water has been reported to have hydrating effects similar to those of carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks.

Green tea

According to Tristaca Curley, a dietician based in British Columbia, green tea contains a smaller amount of caffeine than coffee, but evidence has shown that it hemps improve mental clarity and performance.

Green juices and smoothies

Curley also suggested green juices and smoothies as an alternative to energy drinks due to the vitamin B content in dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and parsley. The body needs B vitamins for metabolism to run at its peak. “If your metabolism is [high], your body is able to produce enough energy at a faster rate,” Curley said.

Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk provides a balance of carbohydrates and protein, as well as calcium, vitamins A and D, and iron. A 2011 study, led by Dr. John Ivy, chair of the University of Texas at Austin College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education called chocolate milk an “ideal post-workout recovery drink.” Athletes who drank low-fat chocolate milk after a workout had “better body composition in the form of more muscle and less fat, improved times while working out and overall better physical shape than peers who consumed sports beverages that just contained carbohydrates.”