Personalizing Hydration & Recovery for Kids

By Daniel Heller, MSc, CSCS, RSCC

Your children’s only responsibility as they grow to adulthood is to enjoy life and have fun. Your responsibility during their formative years is to teach them, support them, and guide them. Critical to their growth and development is the food and drink they consume. From birth to around the beginning of grade school, you have major control over their sustenance. These early years are also a prime period for teaching them the importance of proper nutrition and hydration and the impact poor choices may have on their physical and mental performance. Because of this, it’s important to clearly identify the differences between sports and energy drinks and learn to implement hydration and recovery into your parenting strategies.

Sports drinks vs. energy drinks

A sports drink provides a combination of ingredients to help maintain and/or replenish what the body loses when participating in a physical activity. These are predominantly water and salts. On the flip side, an energy drink contains ingredients that can act as a stimulant—frequently referred to as ergogenic aids. These can cause acute, variable effects during performance such as an increase in physical energy1 along with an unwanted decrease in mental focus and will not aid in replenishing the body when the child finishes playing.

Below are two nutrition fact panels; one from a sports drink and the other from a common energy drink. As mentioned above, a sports drink aims to help replenish what is lost in sweat. This is why you see a plethora of different minerals and mineral salts listed on the nutrition facts panel from the sports drink. They are intended to replace what has been excreted, but none of the listed ingredients act as stimulants. This is in contrast to the nutrition facts panel from the energy drink, which lists ingredients that are known to have direct effects on physical energy with the addition of ingredients such as B vitamins and caffeine.2 Parents need to be aware of possible behavioral and/or cognitive impacts these ingredients may have on their child.

Below are examples of the different profiles you might see on a sports drink versus an energy drink:

Sports Drink

Energy Drink

Calories 10 110
Total Fat 0 g 0 g
Sodium 180 mg 100 mg
Total Carb 32 g 28 g
Sugars 2 g 27 g
Protein 0 g less than 1 g

Vitamin C 200% N/A
Pantothenic Acid 280% 50%
Vitamin B6 250% 250%
Vitamin B12 100% 80%
Zinc 25% N/A
Niacin 50% 100%
Vitamin E 100% N/A
Thiamin 133% N/A
Riboflavin 294% N/A
Calcium 5% N/A
Phosphorus 2% N/A
Magnesium 38% N/A
Chromium 69% N/A
Chloride 8% N/A
Sodium 8% N/A
Potassium 3% N/A


Hydration & recovery

Human beings are comprised of about 60% water. We’re constantly losing fluids through breathing, sweating, and waste. During physical activity, much of our fluid loss comes from sweating, and sweat composition varies greatly.3 So it is important to ensure that there are adequate electrolytes (mineral salts) in the beverages you provide for your children to drink after intense physical activity.

Recovery is an aspect of caring for ourselves after physical activities and is one that is often neglected. The intention of recovery is to support the body in restoring physical homeostasis. We can do this by resting, drinking, eating, and gentle movements. Calorie consumption is a huge part of recovery, especially for kids, because they have much less stored energy than adults. Energy is stored in our bodies as glycogen and fat, and due to their smaller size, children have less room to store these sources. This underscores the importance of recovery so as to replenish the calories children burn during intense physical activity. Due to its combination of carbohydrates, fats, protein and calories (as well as rapid absorption), chocolate milk is a well-known and well-received recovery option for children.

Chocolate Milk

Calories 350
Total Fat 4.5 g
Sodium 450 mg
Total Carb 54 g
Sugars 51 g
Protein 25 g
Cholesterol 25 mg

Vitamin D 4.3 mcg (20%)
Calcium 900 mcg (70%)
Iron 0.5 mg (2%)
Potassium 1220 mg (25%)
Vitamin A 262 mcg (25%)


Parenting strategy implementation exercise

Recovery strategy: Try offering foods of varying glycemic loads to your children. Note their impact on the child’s energy level and mood. For example, a donut versus a healthy PB&J. What makes your child feel better after intense physical activity?

Hydration strategy: Compare different sports drinks to water. What are the differences in mineral compositions among the commercial drinks? Notice the sugar content, flavoring source, and where the color comes from. Does your child notice a difference between them and water?

These exercises may help you determine what types of food and drink you can offer to your child that will provide appropriate nutrition and hydration for their health.

Until next time, live well and live active.



  1. Schwartz DL et al. Energy drinks and youth self-reported hyperactivity/inattention symptoms. Acad Pediatr. 2015;15(3):297-304.
  2. Del Coso J et al. Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):21.
  3. Lara B et al. Interindividual variability in sweat electrolyte concentration in marathoners. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:31.


Daniel Heller, MSc, CSCS, RSCC:

Holistic strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Heller, MSc, CSCS, RSCC earned his Bachelor’s of Science in exercise science and wellness from Bastyr University in 2009 on a direct path to having a positive impact in the world of exercise and sport science. Since graduating from Bastyr, Heller has gone onto coaching youth athletes in ice hockey, figure skating, and mountain biking. As well as developing postural alignment and compression garments with Oakley Inc. and was the primary author of the exercise chapter for the Metagenics FirstLine Therapy Patient Guidebook. In 2016, he received his Master’s of Science degree in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. Heller is continuing to coach and actively participates in the field of strength and conditioning. Daniel Heller is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.

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