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How Do I Choose the Best Electrolyte Drink?

Athletes in endurance training drink electrolytes to replace minerals lost while exercising.
Electrolyte drinks.
People who exercise strenuously should drink electrolyte-enhanced water or beverages to replace crucial minerals lost through sweat.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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Set foot in most grocery stores, health food stores, or gym snack bars and you’ll find a wide variety of drinks geared to replenish essential nutrients and energize the body. Before selecting an electrolyte drink, it is important to understand what exactly it is, who needs to consume it, and what the basic differences are between the various drinks. For example, some drinks are primarily sugar-based with only minimal nutrients, while others are full of minerals that work to the benefit of the body. Some contain amino acids and others boast they are full of proteins.

Electrolytes are minerals in the body that keep an electric charge, transporting nutrients to cells and exporting wastes away from cells. Generally, an electrolyte drink is a beverage that replaces essential electrolytes and minerals that are lost during long periods of vigorous exercise. For shorter or less vigorous workouts, water is often a fine choice; however, for endurance athletes and people exercising in extreme conditions, a drink that includes electrolytes may become essential. Consequently, if a person is simply thirsty, grabbing this type of drink may not be the best choice.

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The three main minerals lost during strenuous exercise are sodium, chloride, and potassium. Magnesium and calcium are also lost, though not in large amounts. Consequently, in selecting the right sports drink, it is important to look at the list of electrolytes. There are a few drinks that replace all of these essential minerals. Many only replace a few of the minerals or only replace the minerals in the smallest amounts. When selecting an electrolyte drink, look for one that replaces the most minerals in the largest amounts.

Many of these drinks contain carbohydrates, which work to fuel the body. Although some sports drinks are very high in sugar or carbohydrates, studies have shown that even top athletes do not require more than 6% sugar or carbohydrates in their drinks. In most cases, carbohydrates simply mean added calories. Unless an athlete is training for a long period of time or in dry, hot conditions, more than 6 to 8% carbohydrate per serving is over-kill. So, when selecting an electrolyte drink, look for one that has no more sugar than necessary.

Some beverages also have protein, but studies have shown that this is not essential in a sports drink. Although one with protein may promote endurance and lower damage to the muscles, current research is leaning towards consuming drinks containing amino acids instead. Consequently, some sports drinks contain essential amino acids, such as glutamine, leucine, valine, and isoleucine, as an alternative to protein. As a result, the body gets the benefits of the amino acids found in protein without the problems associated with consuming protein, such as digestive problems. When selecting an electrolyte drink, look for one that contains amino acids over one that contains proteins.

Some people may quickly become overwhelmed by the many choices when making their drink selection. For those people, the easiest way to save money and replenish some of the electrolytes is to mix together a few ingredients and create a homemade drink. Simply mix 2 quarts (1.9 l) of water with 0.5 cup (114.96 g) of sugar, 0.5 teaspoon (2.373 g) of salt, and 0.4 cup (4.04 oz) of orange juice. Alternately, some studies have shown that drinking a glass of chocolate milk provides the same benefits as most sports drinks. Whether it is made from scratch or purchased from a store, make sure it tastes good or else it may be difficult to consume.

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Discuss this Article

brthomas
Post 6

I make a homemade electrolyte hydration drink from diluted apple juice, vinegar, stevia and lite salt for sodium and potassium electrolytes.

DinoLeash
Post 5

I know it might sound silly but I buy Pedialyte and use it as my electrolyte supplement. I even buy the Pedialyte popsicles.

calabama71
Post 4

@carrotisland: My husband takes a liter of water and adds ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. sea salt, 2 Tbsp. agave nectar, and the juice of a lemon. I don’t know how it tastes but he drinks it religiously!

alex94
Post 3

@carrotisland: A recipe that I’ve used often is: use 1 scoop of frozen orange juice, ½ tsp. of baking soda, a couple of pinches of salt, 1 B12 vitamin, 1 Magnesium tablet, fructose to taste. Mix it all together and then let it sit overnight. Shake it really good the next morning and drink up! I usually have that and a banana in the mornings.

CarrotIsland
Post 2

Is there a way to make a homemade electrolyte drink?

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