A while back my daughter had a coach that flat out forbade them from bringing Gatorade to practice. Water was the only thing allowed. Her belief was that it hydrated them better. This didn’t make the parents all that happy, especially when US Youth Soccer was advocating sports drinks simply because kids were more likely to drink them. But this coach wasn’t alone in her belief. My ‘E’ course instructor was adamant about it. (and my daughter’s coach that year was in the same ‘E’ class. Coincidence? I think not!)

Anyway, someone finally did some research on this very question – what helps kids stay hydrated better? Not from the standpoint of ounce for ounce what helps the body more, but instead looking at the drinking habits of kids in sports and the quantity of fluids consumed. Survey says? Sports drinks are the way to go without question!

Several other studies show that kids, by and large, simply don’t drink water, even if it’s readily available. In a seminal group of studies in the 1990s, young athletes were brought in to a human performance laboratory in Canada and asked to complete intermittent, easy sessions of bicycling, while drinking as much water as they liked. During the 90 to 180 minute sessions, the “children dehydrated progressively and their core temperatures increased faster than in adults,” the researchers found. Change the beverage, though, and children’s drinking behavior alters — dramatically. In the Canadian laboratory cycling study, when the kids were offered grape-flavored water, they voluntarily drank 44.5 percent more than when the water was unflavored. And when the drink included 6 percent carbohydrates and electrolytes — when, in other words, it was a sports drink — they eagerly downed 91 percent more than when offered water alone.

That is a HUGE difference. The article goes on to make some important points. First, this applies to older kids playing sports (ie 10-12 and older). 5 year olds playing soccer aren’t going to suffer from dehydration, though they should always have things to drink during activities. But as the activities get more intense as the kids get older, something other than water may be the best thing because they’re most likely to drink it.

Don’t believe it? Pay attention to the drink bottles around your bench after your next match with an older team. How many water bottles still have water in them vs the sports drink bottles? I’m emptying out water bottles all the time, but it’s a rare Gatorade bottle that has anything left in it.