Electrolyte supplements come in lots of different forms these days. Some can be taken like a pill, while others come in premade drinks and still others are mixed with water. The type of electrolyte supplement you choose will vary depending on your needs and the types of activities that you enjoy doing. If you choose a supplement that needs to be mixed with water, we have a complete guide to how to add electrolytes to water.
What do electrolyte supplements do?
With approximately three quarters of the population of the United States population suffering from chronic dehydration, it’s clear that Americans have not yet nailed down how to stay properly hydrated. While drinking water throughout the day is important, water intake alone is not enough to prevent dehydration. The balance of electrolytes in your system plays a critical role in keeping your fluid levels where they should be, but it can be difficult to get all of the electrolytes you need through food and water, particularly if you work out regularly. Electrolyte supplements can help stabilize your electrolyte levels and replace electrolytes that are lost through sweating, urination, diarrhea, and vomiting.
You don’t have to be an endurance athlete to benefit from using electrolyte supplements. Ensuring that you have enough electrolytes is important for everyone, because your body needs the proper amount of electrolytes in order to maintain proper brain function, allow you to focus, and have enough energy to get through the day. Electrolytes also play a role in muscle contraction and recovery, so without sufficient stores of electrolytes, you won’t be able to perform at your peak. If you’re trying to recover from a late night out when you’ve had a few drinks, replacing electrolytes can help reverse morning headaches and reduce nausea to get rid of your hangover as quickly as possible. Electrolytes play a major role in maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the body, so many people use electrolyte supplements to prevent dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Dark yellow urine
- Diminished urine input
Severe dehydration is very dangerous and can cause significant complications and health issues, and it can even be fatal. Signs of severe dehydration include:
- Reduced elasticity of the skin
- Drop in blood pressure
- Sunken eyes
- Quickening heart rate
Different Types of Electrolyte Supplements
Electrolyte supplements come in many different forms. Although most people are familiar with electrolyte supplements in the form of commercial sports drinks, there are lots of different varieties, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The types of electrolyte supplements are outlined below.
Electrolyte capsules are among the most convenient options for replacing electrolytes. Ideal for people who don’t like drinking electrolyte drinks, capsules are extremely lightweight, convenient, and easy to pack. Electrolyte capsules can be taken during endurance activities, in the morning after a big night out, or when sick in order to support hydration and balance fluid levels. Certain electrolyte capsules may cause side effects, including bloating, stomach irritation, and other digestive issues, due to a concentrated amount of electrolytes ingested at the same time.
One of the most common types of electrolyte supplements is electrolyte powder. Powder is lightweight, which makes it useful for people who need to carry packets of the supplement on the go. In theory, electrolyte powder is easy to dissolve into water, and it can be used to mask the taste of water that isn’t as fresh as you’d prefer. On the downside, you will need to have clean water available with you. Most electrolyte powders are intended to be dissolved in 16 ounces of clean water, but the serving size varies. Not all electrolyte powders dissolve completely, so you’ll likely be left with some powdery residue at the bottom of your beverage.
Electrolyte concentrates offer a new twist on dissolvable electrolyte supplements. Unlike electrolyte powders, which may not dissolve completely and are prone to leave a gritty residue behind, electrolyte concentrates are liquid forms of electrolytes that dissolve in water. Electrolyte concentrates can also mask the taste of water, particularly when used with a squeeze of lemon or lime. You will need at least 12 ounces of clean water available to use an electrolyte concentrate, which is slightly less than the 16 ounces required by most powders.
Electrolyte tablets have become popular in recent years because they are easy to use and carry. Electrolyte tablets usually come packed in a plastic tube to prevent them from breaking or cracking. To use an electrolyte tablet, you will simply add one tablet to the recommended amount of water (usually 16 ounces) and wait for the tablet to dissolve. You shouldn’t need to shake or stir the water in order to dissolve the tablet, but some tablets may not dissolve completely.
Most electrolyte drinks are commercial sports drinks, and along with the dose of electrolytes you need, you’ll also get a bunch of junk. Calories, carbohydrates, and added sugars are common ingredients in most of these beverages, with many containing as much sugar as a can of soda. While electrolyte drinks are convenient in that they are premade and ready to drink, they are bulky to carry with you over a long distance. People who want to limit their intake of calories, carbohydrates, added sugars, and artificial ingredients will be disappointed by the options when it comes to electrolyte drinks.
How to Add Electrolytes to Water
If you decide to opt for an electrolyte concentrate, powder, or tablet, you will need to know how to add electrolytes to water. The method is a bit different depending on which form of the supplement you are using.
How often should I use electrolyte supplements?
No matter what type of electrolyte supplements you choose, maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes is critical to guarantee that your body can function properly and will not become dehydrated. However, many people are not sure how often to use electrolyte supplements. In reality, everyone has different needs when it comes to electrolytes because how often you need to replace electrolytes is largely dependent on your lifestyle. If you are a heavy or salty sweater or you plan to exercise at a high intensity, like running, for more than an hour, you’ll need to replace electrolytes after your workouts. Doing so will help improve recovery, avoid prolonged dehydration, and limit muscle pain and soreness. People who don’t workout regularly still have a need to replace electrolytes, particularly if you spend a lot of time working outdoors in the heat, are likely to sweat throughout the day, or are recovering from a late night or an illness.
Electrolyte supplements are also more beneficial for some groups of people who are more prone to experience dehydration regardless of their activity level. Young children and older adults are more likely to experience electrolyte imbalances and dehydration than other age groups, so they can benefit from the regular use of electrolyte supplements, particularly during periods of low fluid intake. Additionally, many people experience dehydration on an occasional basis, such as after having a few drinks, consuming too much caffeine to stay awake during the day, or while following a ketogenic diet. In these cases, electrolyte supplements can help restore electrolyte imbalances and minimize the effects of dehydration.