What Drinks Have Electrolytes?
Many sports drinks are praised for their high electrolyte content. The idea, of course, is that during intense exercise, the body loses electrolytes through sweat and needs to be replaced with food or drink.
But electrolyte drinks are actually a much broader category than the brightly colored juice-like drinks that may come to mind, and it's not just athletes that can benefit from their consumption.
Ever wonder what electrolytes are or when you might need them? Read the answers, plus a list of high-electrolyte drinks to choose from.
What are electrolytes?
We've probably all heard of electrolytes in sports drink ads, but the commercials don't seem to do much to explain what they really are. In short, electrolytes are minerals. If you want to get technical, they are substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water.
Potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus are the six electrolytes that humans need in our diet. These minerals support a healthy nervous system, regulate fluid balance, keep muscles contracted, and stabilize the body's pH balance.
We regularly lose electrolytes through sweat, urine, and feces (and the most unpleasant through vomiting). A severe lack of electrolytes can lead to adverse symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, confusion, nausea, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Who Needs Electrolyte Drinks?
Despite the marketing that it is necessary to replace lost electrolytes after exercise, most people manage to maintain adequate levels through a normal, healthy diet. And water often serves as a rehydration drink.
People who work outdoors for 60 minutes or more or in hot, humid weather.
Still, electrolyte drinks can take their place during and after training. If you've been exercising vigorously for a long period, like an hour or more, especially in hot or humid weather, you may want to grab a bottle of something high in electrolytes.
The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends consuming a glucose electrolyte solution when exercising lasts more than an hour, especially if the total duration extends beyond 90 minutes.
People who exercise at high altitude
Exercising at high altitudes can also make you particularly susceptible to electrolyte losses.3 And if you experience muscle cramps, nausea, or fatigue after a bout of heavy sweating, try an electrolyte drink. It can help alleviate these symptoms.
People with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or excessive fluid loss
Since electrolytes are not only lost through sweat but also through stool, diarrhea is another common cause of the deficiency. Replenishing your stores with an electrolyte drink during a bout of gastrointestinal illness can certainly be a smart idea (along with water, of course).
Pregnant women or women on a specific diet
Other people who need to be more aware of their electrolyte intake include pregnant women and those on a ketone diet. Although this is a normal symptom of pregnancy, frequent urination can lead to a more rapid loss of electrolytes.
Similarly, because a ketogenic diet stimulates the liver to release glycogen, which is stored with water, you may find yourself using the bathroom much more frequently on this eating plan. Consequently, it may be necessary to replace lost electrolytes.
What to Look for in an Electrolyte Drink
Well-known, colorful sports drinks may contain essential minerals, but they generally contain a lot of sugar. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 34 grams of sugar. It's true that, as a simple carbohydrate, sugar can power your workouts.
But regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a number of health problems, 4 and the additional sugar is likely not needed as fuel for moderate exercise.
When choosing a drink to make up for your losses, look for one with the least amount of added sugar. And, unless recommended by your doctor, reduce electrolyte drinks to an occasional, non-daily part of your diet.
When purchasing an electrolyte drink, you may want to consider the following:
A mixture of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium)
Low in added sugar (and no artificial sugars) unless needed to replenish mid-workout.
No artificial colors
Convenience (premix, tablet, powder, or juice / natural water)
We hope you enjoy watching this video about what do electrolytes actually do
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