Electrolyte drinks can be a source of great confusion: people see a drink in the fridges of a shop claiming to be full of electrolytes and think, ‘this sounds fantastic’ – despite not knowing what electrolytes actually are. We are going to take you through a guide to electrolyte-infused beverages, including which are the best ones to drink, which of those have drawbacks and when you may need to drink them.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals and compounds that, when mixed with water, conduct electrical charge. In other words, they are electrically charged. They help regulate some of the body’s basic functions such as hydration, nerve signaling, muscle contraction and pH balance.
The main electrolytes that your body uses to perform these essential functions are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chloride and bicarbonate.
Having electrolytes in excess or not having enough can cause serious health issues.
Every day, we lose electrolytes naturally via sweat and other waste products, so it is important to replace them with a nutritious diet rich in minerals.
In certain situations, you may lose more electrolytes than usual, such as during vigorous exercise and when you vomit or experience a bout of diarrhea. In these instances, you may choose to replace your electrolytes with a drink.
What are the best electrolyte drinks?
Found, not surprisingly, in coconuts, coconut water is a drink that has become a trendy thing to be seen drinking. Why? It could be down to its naturally low sugar content and a wide variety of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
You can find coconut water sold in most shops around the globe either in cartons or bottles – sometimes in the coconuts themselves. In our humble opinion, coconut water might just be the best electrolyte drink on the market.
This may come as a shock, but cow’s milk is among the most electrolyte-infused drinks on our list, such that it has even been named a potentially better post-workout beverage than a sports drink. It is home to a rich profile of minerals such as calcium, sodium, and potassium, as well as a supply of carbs and protein.
For those who are lactose intolerant, opt for a lactose-free variety. Otherwise, those adhering to a vegan diet or who are allergic to milk completely should steer away from this dairy product entirely and select another electrolyte-infused drink on this list. We recommend this because plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk don’t generally offer the same benefits in this regard.
Fruit juice can be another good source of electrolytes. Orange and tart cherry juice are two examples of electrolyte-infused drinks containing potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Pure watermelon water is another electrolyte-packed drink, with potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, as well as L-citrulline– an amino acid that is thought to aid oxygen transport.
The only thing to bear in mind with using fruit juices to replace lost electrolytes is that they’re often low in sodium. You don’t want to miss sodium, as this could cause low sodium blood levels.
To combat this, you could try adding a little salt to your fruit juice, but not too much – remember, you are trying to rehydrate!
As the wellness market grows at a tremendous rate, consumers can now choose how they want to get needed electrolytes from a wide range of supplements, such as ready-made electrolyte drinks. For example, sparkling beverages supplemented with spirulina, like those from fulcompany.com, are an excellent option for replenishing your electrolyte levels.
Smoothies often blend together fruits, veg, nuts, seeds and dairy products that are rich in electrolytes, making these wholesome fusions a great way to restore your electrolyte supply.
As such, smoothies are great to have straight after a workout or around an hour before to prevent feeling too full. They also make a good elixir for recovering from a stomach bug if you’re not ready to take on an entire meal and need to get back those electrolytes.
Besides the obvious drawbacks of sports drinks, such as being loaded with sugar and artificial colors and flavors, sports drinks can be a good way to refuel the electrolyte supply in your body. Particularly for endurance athletes, sports drinks can provide hydration and energy throughout training or sporting events.
Is It Necessary to Drink Electrolyte Drinks?
Whilst it is helpful to drink electrolyte drinks such as those we mentioned, it is not strictly necessary to do so on a daily basis. Most healthy, active people can reap just the right amount of electrolytes by eating a balanced diet full of nutrients and drinking the recommended daily volume of water, around 2-3 liters.
Additionally, it is important to take caution with some of the electrolyte drinks we mentioned in our list – particularly sports drinks, which, as we mentioned earlier, often come with obscene amounts of added sugar and artificial colors. Excessive consumption of these may do more harm than good where your sugar levels and teeth are concerned.
When would it be Important to Drink One?
If you find yourself in any of the following circumstances, it may be wise to grab yourself an electrolyte drink:
- Participating in an intensive exercise routine for more than 60 minutes;
- Spending extended periods in a very hot climate;
- Having a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.
That’s because you will likely lose more electrolytes in those situations, so a drink containing electrolytes may be favorable.
Hopefully, you’re a little clearer on what electrolyte drinks are, what they do and how they can keep you hydrated and your body performing at its best.