Nearly a third of teens drink sports drinks designed for high intensity exercise while at the cinema, watching TV or gaming, according to research conducted on behalf of the Natural Hydration Council (NHC)Opinion Matters conducted the research for the Natural Hydration Council between: 06 / 06 / 2014 and 16 / 06 / 2014. Sample size: 1002 x 13-17 year oldsTeens were able to choose more than one beverage option.
A quarter of teenagers think sports drinks are healthy enough to be drunk anytime, despite health guidelines stating they should only be drunk during high intensity activity lasting more than an hourConvertino VA et al. American College of Sports Medicine: Position Stand, Exercise and Fluid Replacement (1996) Med Sci Sports Exerc. 28(1):i-vii : During exercise lasting less than 1 h, there is little evidence of physiological or physical performance differences between consuming a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink and plain water. During intense exercise lasting longer than 1 h, it is recommended that carbohydrates be ingested at a rate of 30-60 g.h(-1) to maintain oxidation of carbohydrates and delay fatigue.
Only 16% of teenagers who drink sports drinks do so for the reason they’re designed.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states sports drinks are only effective for ‘active individuals performing endurance exercise.’
To have any positive benefit in consuming a sports drink, a person would need to do so in accordance with the strict criteria defined in the agreed health claims.
For most people, keeping hydrated with water before, during and after exercise will be enough. Moderate intensity physical activity includes the kind of activities we do on a daily basis such as brisk walking, gardening, hiking, DIY and dancing.
Nearly a third of teenagers think sports drinks are healthy to drink when they are exercising for less than an hour.
Professor Paul Gately, Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University and advisor to the Natural Hydration Council says:
“Sports drinks have a clear purpose for athletes participating in high intensity exercise – otherwise people are just consuming water, salt and on average 16 grams of sugar in each 500ml bottle.
“Teenagers often perceive these drinks to be more healthy than other soft drinks, when they really only have a purpose to help those who are being vigorously active.
“Knowing which drinks to choose for the amount of physical or recreational exercise you do is important. Drinking water will keep most people well hydrated.”
Nearly half of all teenagers surveyed said they often feel thirsty and 40% said they were not sure what their body needs to keep hydrated.
Kinvara Carey, Natural Hydration Council’s general manager says:
“These findings show there is still some confusion about the role of sports drinks. The recently updated school food standards establishes water as the first choice to hydrate with but more education is needed to help young people make healthy hydration choices.”
For guidance on what people should be drinking see our Healthy Hydration Glass.
For hydration advice during recreational and physical activities see fact sheet on this topic.