There is nothing better than a refreshing and rejuvenating drink during and after a vigorous workout or unexpected ﬂu! Water comprises almost 70 percent of the human body and this itself shows how important it is to stay hydrated for better health and bodily functions.
Consuming the right drinks with added health benefits to replenish the lost fluid and body stores is a boost to the fluid balance of your body. An added healthy bonus is the incorporation of electrolytes in it.
This article focuses on everything you need to know about electrolyte drinks-right from their role to their side effects to the different electrolyte drink options available.
What are electrolytes?
Let us ﬁrst get acquainted with what electrolytes are. These are basically the minerals (ions) that contain an electric charge. The major ones required regularly by the body are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride.
Role of electrolytes in the body
- Electrolytes maintain the ﬂuid balance of the body.
- They help in the transfer of nutrients in and out of the cell.
- Additionally, electrolytes also play a very important role in muscle development and proper nerve functioning.
About electrolyte drinks
Hopping on to what electrolyte drinks or beverages are, these are the drinks that simply replenish the lost electrolytes and ﬂuids in your body. Electrolyte drinks are available in the market in the form of tablets, fluids, and powders.
Composed of main water, electrolytes, and sugar, electrolyte drinks have become a mandate for those who are looking for a good post-exercise recovery and wish to improve their performance in sports.
Moreover, it is also beneﬁcial in case of dehydration, diarrhea, ﬂu, etc. Before choosing any electrolytic drink, we must have an idea of basic science and the need of consuming it, keeping in mind the amount and sugar content in the drink.
How electrolyte drinks maintain and restore hydration:
Many electrolyte beverages contain water as their main ingredient and their main role is to rehydrate the body. They are a good call when you feel dehydrated or fatigued, or want to work on the fluid balance of your body.
The basic principle of ﬂuid balance inside the body is that the amount of water consumed should be equal to the amount of water lost from the body through sweat, urine, and other ﬂuids. If the consumption is more, it is termed as a positive balance.
But the real concern lies when the amount of water lost exceeds the amount consumed, a situation where the person suffers from dehydration with an incurred loss of ﬂuids and electrolytes resulting in dizziness, dehydration, nausea, infrequent urination, headache, etc.
That’s where electrolyte drinks kick in, helping in bringing your ﬂuid balance back to normal and rule out the possibilities of dehydration or electrolyte losses.
Beneﬁts of electrolyte drinks
- They help in increasing water absorption by increasing the rehydrating capacity due to the value addition of adequate sugar in it. Remember, adequate and not EXCESS.
- The climate weighs as much as other factors as a marker of your hydration status. Hot climate calls for more ﬂuid and electrolyte intake from time to time and thus, electrolyte drinks are a good call to keep your body cool.
- Electrolyte drinks are beneﬁcial especially when you are into vigorous and intense exercise as a sportsperson. Your body needs continuous ﬂuids intake because of the amount being lost in sweat. Electrolyte drink replenishes your lost electrolytes and helps you gain energy and improve muscle contraction thereby improving your game.
Before choosing any electrolyte drink, make sure you are aware of the sugar content in the product as excess sugar is harmful to the body. For children, the chosen drinks should be low in sugar and calorie content.
Choosing the best electrolyte drink
- Coconut water
Coconut water is one of the best replenishing drinks you can opt for as it is high in potassium and sodium, 4% of the daily value (DV) for calcium, and 4% of the DV for magnesium.
The best part is that coconut water is low in sugar (just 11 grams). According to Cambridge University research, coconut water rehydrates better than plain water and works the same just like any other sports drink with a healthy alternative of having less sugar.
Commercially, Pedialyte is known to be a very famous drink for children although adults may use it as well. Due to a very low amount of sugar in it, Pedialyte can be given to children to replenish the ﬂuid losses due to diarrhea or vomiting.
The main electrolytes present in this drink are sodium, chloride, and potassium. Each variety contains only 9 grams of sugar, but the ﬂavored options also contain artiﬁcial sweeteners. So, unﬂavored ones will be a better catch to prevent excess sugar intake.
- Tap water
Tap water may seem like an unconventional choice for an electrolyte drink but you will be amazed to know the benefits it has in terms of added minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. It does not have sugar which is an added advantage but the purity and sodium content of tap water adequate to replenish stores are still a talk of debate.
Talking of sports drinks and ruling out Gatorade? Next to impossible. This original sports drink was created at the University of Florida to help athletes combat dehydration in the hot Florida weather. It is composed of just water and sodium with 36 grams of sugar (or even no sugar) and some artiﬁcial food dyes.
Milk is not particularly liked by many people, especially children, but its amazing health benefits cannot be ignored. Cow’s milk is the masterstroke here.
Contrary to popular belief, milk can be used for a lot more than breakfast cereal or coffee. According to USDA research, milk is a rich source of calcium, sodium, and potassium along with important nutrients like carbohydrates and protein which help in muscle tissue repair.
The study also claims that milk can be a much better alternative to many commercial sports drinks,also being cost-friendly at the same time. Those who are lactose intolerant have the option of going for a lactose-free milk derivative easily available these days.
Electrolyte drinks are one of the best choices for your body replenishment of your body stores and fluid balance. Along with these drinks, the core approach should be to have a good amount of fruits, vegetables, and ﬂuids in your daily diet. A combination of the right diet and a healthy electrolyte drink may work wonders for you.