Do you know what electrolytes are and why we need them? You’ve heard all the push to drink sports drinks to replenish these said electrolytes. But do we really need specialty drinks to get the job done?
First off, here’s a little information on what we’re talking about here. Electrolytes are actually minerals in your blood and other bodily fluids that carry a charge (positive or negative). Examples include Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Chloride. They affect how much water is in your body (Sodium), your muscle contraction (think Calcium and Magnesium), how your heart functions (another muscle – think Sodium and Potassium), and important body processes such as respiration and sweating. All these processes are kept within a small range in order for our bodies to maintain homeostasis (or balance).
When it comes to exercise and sports, you know about sweating and this is the premise on which sports drinks are marketed. Replacing electrolytes is important. But, do you need to do that with one of these drinks? Here’s my answer to that question. No! And here’s why:
First of all, if you’re a 5 year old that “played” 45 minutes of soccer, you don’t need to replenish electrolytes because the game is not that intense. Staying hydrated is important, of course. So, the idea of bringing these sports drinks for an after game/practice treat is really unnecessary. Even for adults who are doing normal, moderate to intense exercise for an hour or less, don’t really need these types of drinks. You can get by with a re-hydrating with plain or mineral water and you’re good.
On the other hand, if you are training for a marathon, triathlon or some other endurance sport, you will need something more help maintain electrolyte balance. For most of us, however, drinking water before, during and after exercise and eating healthy foods (which contain these minerals mentioned above) is all you need to balance your electrolytes.
The nutrition in these sports drinks is not so nutritious.
The ingredients in popular electrolyte drinks are not that much different than drinking any other soft drink. They do contain some potassium and sodium but there is also a lot of sugar (sucrose, or table sugar) and artificial stuff, too. They have 21 grams of sucrose per serving which equates to about 5 teaspoons of table sugar. I’m guessing most people would be against giving their kids a dose of sweet like that in one shot! Some of them even have artificial sweeteners in them. With this rationale, the sodium in a diet soda would do the same thing as these drinks but the cool artificial colors and flavors are a the product of fabulous marketing, especially targeted to our kids. The terms electrolytes and gatorade are almost synonymous.
So, what do you do?
- Drink water to keep hydrated. Mineral water, plain or sparkling, contains these electrolytes (minerals) to replenish those depleted during the activity.
- If you are drinking pure or distilled water, which has almost all minerals removed, have a snack of berries, bananas, almonds, or some other nuts to help replenish the missing minerals. You can get them from these light foods.
- Make your own electrolyte drink. Combine 3-4 Cups of water, squeeze 2-3 oranges and 1/2 a lemon, add a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt and you’re good to go. Stick around for recipes on DIY electrolyte drinks.
- Drink pure coconut water. Sometimes referred to as “nature’s gatorade,” this drink contains great amounts of potassium, some sugar (5 grams) and Vitamin C. This brand doesn’t have any extra junk in it. Click here to check it out on Amazon. Be careful what you buy. Read the label!
- Or, try this easy, on-the-go electrolyte supplement. In addition to sodium, magnesium, chloride, and potassium, it contains taurine for blood pressure support and D-Ribose for heart function, exercise recovery and energy production. It can be used after excessive sweating as well as to improve symptoms after excessive diarrhea or vomiting. The is a much better alternative to those pediatric electrolyte replacements. This can be taken in 2 ways: 1) mix 2 teaspoons in 10-12 ounces water per day, or 2) mix as in #1 and put in popsicle forms and freeze. This has a lemon flavor. To purchase, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my estore and search ELS210 to order. Don’t forget the discount code DFH10% at check out.