Your frequent questions answered by the experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Q: Energy drinks seem to be popular among my son and his friends, who are all on the same football team. Some have even started using supplements because they think it will improve performance. Will these drinks and supplements actually help? A: Your son is likely better off just drinking plenty of water before, during and after activity. While sports drinks can be beneficial in certain circumstances (workouts lasting longer than an hour or in hot/humid conditions), energy drinks have no useful role in the diet of young athletes. Energy drinks contain substances that include non-nutritive stimulants claiming to boost energy. The main stimulant in energy drinks is usually caffeine, which temporarily energizes the body. It is also a diuretic, however, which means that it depletes water from the body. The stimulants in energy drinks can also pose other potential health risks if and when they interact with prescription medications or other supplements. Often these reactions are unpredictable and can result in permanent harm. These substances are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so proper labeling of ingredients is not required. Supplements are products such as protein powders, creatine, amino acids, mega-dose vitamins/minerals, weight loss aids, energy boosters and more. They may promise rapid, unrealistic and potentially unsafe changes in body composition and/or appearance. Supplements also are unregulated by the FDA, often expensive and, in many cases, have side effects that can actually inhibit athletic performance. Your son's best shot at optimal athletic performance is to give his body the best possible nutrients it needs - plenty of water, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. -Stephanie Carzoo, MS, ATC, is a licensed and certified athletic trainer with Nationwide Children's Sports Medicine and the head athletic trainer at Grandview Heights High School.