Sports Drink Nutrition
Athletic Replenishment: Healthy Alternatives to Commercial Sports Drinks
Are your children the super-active or athletic type? Chances are they’ve been having a little too much artificial sugar and colourings around sport — not your fault! Advertising pushes electrolytes drinks, such as Powerade and Gatorade, on adults and small children to “enhance sports activity,” but little do they explain that these sugars will directly result in a blood sugar crash and decreased performance towards the middle and end of the game. Not to mention poor recovery, poor concentration and the exacerbation of hyperactive behaviour with artificial colour. Your kids do need electrolytes to allow them to be active, so what do you do?
There are two options. You could make your own homemade electrolyte drink, which is easy and inexpensive (see below for recipe). Also, some companies have come out with healthier athlete-focused beverages for you and especially for your kids. The Vega Sport line has an Electrolyte hydrator package that uses natural sea salt along with other minerals in a convenient to-go powder package that is sweetened with the herb stevia. Another company, Biosteel, has come out with a large container of powder to be mixed into water that contains a few other sport-supporting ingredients such as Branch Chain Amino Acids and L-Glutamine, which are all necessary to muscular repair during and after activities.
See below for how they compare to the leading brands of electrolyte drinks and why it may be a good idea to make your own or turn to Vega or Biosteel so your kids can replenish electrolytes and be healthy too!
- No artificial colouring, flavours or preservatives
- Contains beetroot powder – beets improve athletic performance by improving oxygen delivered to muscles to reduce fatigue 
- Contains BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which are 3 amino acids necessary for muscle activation and repair
- Contains L Glutamine necessary to prevent muscle breakdown and improve muscle repair
- Contains minerals/electrolytes – Calcium (muscle contraction) and Magnesium (muscle relaxation) and Zinc (aids in protein absorption), Sodium from mineral rich sea salt and Potassium which are involved in nerve and muscle conductivity
- Contains no caloric value of sugar (see downsides) whereas the leading brands often have anywhere from 30 – 60g of refined sugar
- Contains a Vitamin B Complex – although it only contains a small amount, Vitamin B is essential for carbohydrate conversion into energy for your workouts
- Contains sucralose (Splenda) which is an artificial sweetener that may reduce your beneficial bacteria in your gut 
The positives definitely outweigh the negative which makes Vega and Biosteel a MUCH better choice when compared to the commercial brands of electrolyte drinks. This is particularly true when you see 6, 7 and 8 year olds drinking 20oz versions of these sugary drinks that adults consume. When possible, try to choose foods and drinks that are naturally sweetened or sweetened with the herb stevia so you and your kids can more effectively enjoy the athletic experience!
Homemade Electrolyte Drink – 1 Litre
- 750ml water
- 250ml juice (100% fruit juice, no added sugars)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt – to provide a full range of natural minerals
***For long game days where refueling is necessary increase the juice to 500ml and only use 500ml water
1. Lansley, KE, Winyard, Paul G., Bailey, Stephen J., Vanhatalo, Anni, Wilkerson, Daryl P., Blackwell, Jamie R., Gilchrist M., Benjamin, Nigel, and Jones, Andrew M. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011; 43(6): 1125-1131.
2. Bailey, Stephen J., Winyard, Paul, Vanhatalo, Anni, Blackwell, Jamie R., DiMenna, Fred J., Wilkerson, Daryl P., Tarr, Joanna, Benjamin, Nigel, and Jones, Andrew M. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Applied Physiol. 2009; 107(4): 1144-1155.
3. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rates