As a mom and a sports nutritionist, Jackie Berning, Ph.D., R.D., knows how important proper hydration can be for active kids.

“I get all kinds of questions from parents about what drinks are best for kids when playing sports,” said Berning, a nutrition consultant for the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Indians. “Most parents don’t realize that all beverages are not created equal when it comes to hydrating active children.”

To help parents provide the best beverages for their active kids and keep them safe on the playing field, Dr. Berning has worked with the National Alliance For Youth Sports (NAYS) to develop a comprehensive beverage analysis. Using scientific research and the recommendations of leading health professional organizations and nutrition experts, NAYS has created the easy-to-understand Hydration Report Card to help parents make the right beverage choices for active kids.

“The Beverage Report Card will be a valuable tool to help educate parents, coaches and children on the importance of proper fluid replacement,” said Fred Engh, founder/president/CEO, National Alliance For Youth Sports. “The National Alliance For Youth Sports is extremely pleased to be working with Dr. Berning on such an important issue that affects every youngster who participates in sports.”

The National Alliance For Youth Sports is America’s leading advocate for positive and safe sports for children. The Alliance strives to educate volunteer coaches, parents, youth sport program administrators, and officials about their roles and responsibilities in the context of youth sports, in addition to offering youth development programs to children.

The Hydration Report Card outlines the ideal beverage formulation for active kids. Several factors key to proper hydration were evaluated, including carbohydrate energy (sugar), calories, electrolytes and carbonation. Based on these criteria, the Report Card grouped beverages into three categories: “Makes the Grade,” “OK if it’s the only thing available” and “Falls Short.”

In the “Makes the Grade” category are sports drinks like Gatorade. These drinks qualify because research shows their light flavor and sodium encourage kids to drink 90 percent more than plain water to stay better hydrated.

The second category, “OK, if it’s the only drink available,” is where the report card put water. As most people would assume, water is a great thirst quencher, but it falls short because it doesn’t have electrolytes and flavor, so kids don’t drink enough to replace what they lose in sweat.

“Falls Short” is the broadest category and includes fruit juices, fruit drinks and soft drinks. Dr. Berning explains that these beverages don’t deliver what children need when they’re active.

Fruit juices and drinks and soft drinks don’t have the right amount of electrolytes and they contain too much sugar, which can cause stomach upset and slow a child down,” she said. “Also in this category are products that just add “sport” to their title or show sports imagery to imply they’re good for sports, when they’re not. Don’t be fooled just because the words ‘energy’ or ‘electrolytes’ appear on the package it doesn’t mean the beverage is truly supplying the right amounts or types of these ingredients.”

Dr. Berning says that the Report Card clearly illustrates the differences between “sports drinks” and drinks for other occasions.

“It’s important to understand that some beverages are fine for meal time, but what’s best at meal time often don’t deliver what kids need when they’re active,” she said.

Comparision of sports drinks.

Barry University Athletic Recruiting.

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