The Essential Guide to Electrolytes: Needs, Sources, and Benefits

Enhanced electrolyte drinks and supplements such as powders and tablets claim to provide more benefits than drinking water alone. But do they actually work? In this article, we take a deep dive into what electrolytes are, their benefits, and products that can increase your electrolyte intake.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals that contain electric charges that dissolve in water and bodily fluids, such as blood. The minerals include:

  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Potassium
  • Phosphate
  • Sodium

Each component has its own benefits. Some help with pH balance; others maintain regular blood volume, glucose, and pressure; and others control fluid levels in the body. Getting the right amount of electrolytes is crucial. Too little or too much can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, causing symptoms such as headaches, confusion, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, numbness, and muscle cramps.

Electrolyte Supplements

Staying hydrated by drinking enough water every day can help you maintain balanced electrolytes. Products such as electrolyte water, sports drinks, powders, and tablets can help supplement your electrolyte intake, but they are not meant to replace drinking water. Remember: Overconsumption of electrolytes can also cause an imbalance, as mentioned above.

Electrolyte Water

There are a variety of electrolyte waters available; however, it is hard to know how many added electrolytes are in each, as they vary greatly. Electrolyte water can be beneficial, especially if you are sick, have a prolonged workout, or are exposed to heat for an extended period.

Sports Drinks

If you prefer sports drinks over electrolyte water, there are plenty to go around, such as Powerade and Gatorade. These drinks can improve physical performance and increase endurance for athletes before reaching a point of exhaustion. Always read the label and avoid sports drinks that contain excess sugar.

Electrolyte Powders and Tablets

Electrolyte powders are meant to be dissolved in water to deliver high amounts of electrolyte minerals and stimulate thirst. They are great for rapid rehydration in situations such as the flu, food poisoning, or exposure to extreme heat.

Instead of powder, you can choose electrolyte tablets, which are also dissolved in water. Electrolyte powders and tablets often contain sugar for two reasons: to help the minerals absorb into your body more effectively and to provide readily available energy during exercise, especially after an hour.

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