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UK Coaching Team
Children Young people Improving Physical Ability

Understanding Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks

Ann-Marie Bunyan Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) clears up the confusion relating to the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks and explains the key issues with children and young people drinking energy drinks regularly

Energy drinks and sports drinks: what’s the difference and do children and young people need them? 

There is often confusion about the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks. Energy drinks are marketed as a way of ‘boosting’ energy and increasing alertness (this is generally due to the caffeine content), and are mainly made up of:

  • carbohydrate (sugar)
  • caffeine
  • other additives and flavourings. 

Whilst sports drinks also contain carbohydrate, most sports drinks contain a lower percentage of carbohydrates and contain electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Sports drinks are purposely formulated to help replace fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and replace sugar used by the muscles and brain during intense activity. 

The sodium in sports drinks stimulates the drive for thirst and helps to retain the fluid, but energy drinks are not designed for hydration purposes. The carbohydrate in energy drinks is too high to rehydrate and will instead slow down absorption and can cause bloating. The caffeine can also have negative effects on the body.

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