Wendyl Wants To Know: Too powerful for kids just strolling home
Energy drinks and sports drinks are very popular with children and I regularly see them walking to or from school in my neighbourhood drinking a bottle of Powerade. They love it. However, I'm told by my daughter that if you buy it from the dairy it can be $5, which is too expensive if you're just looking for a drink after school. But while it's marketed as a "fast and effective hydration" solution and "scientifically proven", how good is it for your kid? And do they really need it? One look at the colours, which range from bright blue to black, gave me enough reason to take a look.
Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity):
Water Everyone knows that water is essential for hydration. When you're doing moderate exercise sipping from water is a great idea. So it's good that the largest ingredient in this bottle is water.
Sucrose This is sugar and there is 10.7 teaspoons of the stuff in one serving, which is 750ml - the entire bottle. Sugar is a carbohydrate which needs to be replaced if you are exercising. But not if you just went for a quick jog. The Powerade website advises that "studies have shown that providing carbohydrate during exercise results in better exercise performance in sessions of as little as 1 hour of very high intensity (e.g. cycling time trial); for sessions of intermittent high intensity exercise, such as football and rugby and for more prolonged endurance exercise longer than 90 minutes such as long distance running and triathlons." So walking to school and drinking a bottle of this simply means you have a huge load of sugar you aren't going to burn off.
Maltodextrin Here's some more sugar - 12g of it per bottle. This is different to the plain sugar above in that it is a complex sugar taken from starch which brakes down into simple sugars quickly so it is useful in a sports drink as it provides energy quickly.
Food acids (330,331) These are citric acid and sodium citrate.
Flavour This will be artificial and the flavour is called "Mountain Blast". I'm not even sure what a blast from a mountain should taste like but in my house this drink was variously described as tasting like berry, pineapple and an indeterminate sweet and sour flavour.
Tri-Potassium citrate This is potassium which along with salt are the electrolytes that you lose during intense exercise.
Sodium chloride This is salt which is also lost when you sweat during exercise. There is 522mg of salt in a bottle of this drink.
Tri-Potassium phosphate More potassium for the electrolyte substitution.
Colour (133) This is a very bright blue and making it this colour is Brilliant Blue which is a synthetic coal tar dye which was banned in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway because of concerns it is a carcinogen but that ban has since been lifted. However it is now banned in Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Trinidad and Turkey.
In the fine print on this label it says "drink 250ml every 15 minutes during sustained strenuous exercise", which clearly implies that this isn't something you drink on your way to school or when you're not exercising. Most health experts recommend that water is the ideal hydration fuel for light or moderate exercise of less than 60 minutes. Drinking sports drinks without working off the energy can lead to weight gain in children. So if you have an extremely active athletic child you will need to look at hydrating them but perhaps finding a source without artificial flavours or colours would be better for them. You could also purchase the sports drinks powders which are available and make them up at half strength to reduce sugar levels.
Highlights: * Uses artificial colour and flavour. * 10.7 tsp of sugar and 12g of maltodextrin per bottle. * Designed for extreme athletes, not for your kid walking to and from school.