You’ve seen them popping up everywhere; electrolyte powders promise to keep you performing at your best. The truth is, not everyone is walking around starved of electrolytes at all hours of the day. So, are electrolyte powders okay for teen athletes? Let’s examine why they might be needed and what to look for.
Whether or not your should hop on the trend — or let your teen athlete take part, depends on a few factors.
What is the environment like?
The environment refers to the conditions your athlete is either practicing or competing in. Is it hot or humid? If the answer is yes, sweating will be an issue and replenishing electrolytes will become more important.
This does not necessarily mean the sport is outside. Swimming pools that are poorly ventilated can cause and athlete to sweat more even when not actively swimming, diving, or participating in activity.
Sports with high movement
Sports that require a lot of movement may cause your child to sweat excessively and they may need electrolyte replenishment. Sports such as cross country, track, soccer, basketball, field hockey, or lacrosse are examples of sports with a lot of movement. In addition, long and strenuous practices will require additional nutrition and hydration.
Time between meals
Contrary to the draw of electrolyte marketing, you don’t only get them from drinks, they are abundant in your food as well. If your child is eating food, or will eat food shortly after practice, you should do a quick evaluation of their post-practice meals.
There is unfortunately a big gray area to this — for example, if your child is going straight from school ot practice and hasn’t eaten a meal since lunch AND will go another 3 hours post-school without a meal, they will need hydration and nutrients to keep them performing at their best.
How to choose an electrolyte powder
Not all electrolyte powders are created equal. Here’s what you ned to look for before choosing to purchase:
- Sodium is an important electrolyte to help regulate fluid levels in the body. When sodium is low, you risk cramping, but you don’t need to overdo it with some of the amounts in a drink or powder.
- The amounts needed to replenish losses differ for everyone depending on the environment and sweat rate. However, the amount of sodium in some electrolyte powders is extremely high. In general, stick with 300mg or less of sodium in an electrolyte powder. If heavy sweating is the norm, or your teen is exercising in a hot or humid environment, it’s okay to go higher.
- Magnesium is important for muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and energy production, to name a few. While magnesium deficiency is rare, it can cause fatigue, which can be detrimental to an athlete.
- There are no recommendations for replenishment, only an RDA of how much you should be getting in a day. Boys 14-18 need 410 mg per day and teen girls need 360 mg. You can get this through food such as almonds, spinach, black beans, potatoes, and peanut butter, but a small amount in your electrolyte drink won’t hurt.
- Potassium functions alongside sodium to help maintain fluid volume. It is also essential for muscle contraction.
- You may have been told to eat a banana if you experience muscle cramping; however, little evidence suggests that potassium imbalances cause muscle cramps. Boys 14-18 need 3,000 mg per day and girls of the same age need 2,300 mg of potassium per day. Potassium is in many plant and animal foods, so most likely there is no deficiency.
Popular Electrolyte Powders
|Ultima Replenisher||55 mg||100 mg||250 mg||0 g|
|Orgain Hydro Boost||300 mg||0 mg||180 mg||8 g|
|Nuun Sport||300 mg||25 mg||150 mg||1 g|
|Vital Proteins||45 mg||72 mg||670 mg||1 g|
|LMNT||1000 mg||60 mg||200 mg||1 g|
|KaraMD Pure I.V.||500 mg||0 mg||380 mg||11 g|
Are electrolyte powders safe?
In general, electrolyte powders are safe for teens actively involved in physical activity, whether that’s organized sports or active hobbies such as hiking, skateboarding, or weight lifting. Avoid those with large amounts of sodium unless they have been specifically recommended to you by your child’s pediatrician or dietitian.
Don’t worry too much about added sugars; these are used in place of a sports drink, so for active teens, the added sugar won’t hurt. Also, if your child is sensitive to alternative sweeteners, having options with real sugar is nice.
Bottom line: Are electrolyte powders okay for teen athletes?
As with anything new, if you have questions about electrolyte powders, put in a quick telephone consult with your pediatrician or dietitian to get some peace of mind and further recommendations for hydration management.