Are energy-enhanced drinks safe for your young swimmer?

Energy drinks may not be the best recovery option for young swimmers.

Energy drinks may not be the best recovery option for young swimmers.

If you've spent any time in the beverage aisle of your local grocery store, you've probably seen the shelves stacked high with multiple types of beverages that contain caffeine or similar stimulants. If your young swimmer may have asked you to purchase them before, you may want to reconsider before buying them again. 

On the labels of energy drinks, manufacturers often do not state the concentration of stimulants or other ingredients. Giving them to your athlete may actually impair their performance at a big meet. 

Writing on USA Swimming's official website, Dan McCarthy, the organization's High Performance Consultant said that energy drinks may do more harm than help.

"Energy-enhanced products […] are formulated for adults, and according to pediatricians, not intended for children," McCarthy wrote. "Not at home, in school or during an athletic competition. The risk of a seizure or heightened anxiety in a child should send a clear signal to parents and coaches. Energy-enhanced products are only suitable for adults who are capable of understanding the risks."

So what should swim parents do if their child really needs a boost after a long practice or tough meet? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you consider the following alternatives: 

  • Fresh juice 
  • Low-fat milk 
  • Sports drinks (to be used sparingly)
  • Water (after regular-intensity physical activity). 

In addition to the above, young swimmers should eat a well-balanced diet so that they obtain the vitamins and minerals that they need. The AAP also suggests that you discuss how energy drinks may affect you child's performance with your family doctor.