You know how important it is to drink plenty of water during the day, but sometimes, water alone just isn’t enough. Whether you’ve just finished a tough and sweaty workout that leaves you feeling depleted, are trying to rehydrate after a big night out, or work outdoors in the heat, just drinking water may not help you recover properly. That’s because your body isn’t just craving fluids; it also needs electrolytes to restore the balance of fluids in the body and carry out essential functions. Water today is overpurified and simply doesn’t contain the electrolytes we need to perform our best and recover, which is why it is important to seek out beverages that contain electrolytes. There are six drinks that hydrate better than water.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are positively or negatively charged mineral substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are most commonly referenced in terms of how they impact nutrition and hydration, as the body needs them in order to perform a variety of different functions. Electrolytes can be found in your urine, sweat, and blood and are used for the following functions, among others:
- Maintaining proper muscle function, including the prevention of cramps and spasms
- Balancing internal pH levels
- Maintaining proper hydration levels
- Promoting healthy nervous system function
There are seven different electrolytes that can be found in the human body, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and bicarbonate. Although each of the electrolytes is important, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are the three electrolytes that are found in the highest concentrations in the body.
Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body and it is largely responsible for maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the body. Our bodies store sodium in fluid that surrounds each cell and in the blood. Besides playing a primary role in regulating the balance of fluids in the body, we also use sodium in order to maintain the proper function of the muscles and nerves. We obtain most of the sodium in our bodies through foods and drinks that contain sodium, and the electrolyte is primarily excreted through urine and sweat.
The body requires potassium to regulate a large number of different body functions, so we have a significant amount of potassium in our bodies. The majority of potassium, about 80 percent, is stored in the cells of the muscles, while the remaining 20 percent can be found in red blood cells and the cells of the bones and liver. Potassium is critical for the regulation of fluid levels in the body, as well as helping nerves send and receive signals and regulating muscle contractions.
Magnesium is one of the most versatile electrolytes, as the body uses it in more than 600 different cellular reactions. Despite the importance of magnesium for proper health and function, more than two thirds of Americans don’t get enough magnesium through dietary intake alone. The electrolyte is used to relay signals between the brain and body, maintain a healthy heartbeat, help make DNA, regulate muscle contractions, and more.
What drinks hydrate better than water?
Electrolytes are incredibly important for maintaining the balance of fluids in the body. Although people used to receive all of the electrolytes they need from food and unpurified water, water today is not a good source of electrolytes because it is usually overpurified. While water can help you stay hydrated, it’s often not enough to fight off dehydration after a hard workout, long night out, or a day spent outdoors in the heat. Instead, turn to one of these six drinks that hydrate better than water:
What is an electrolyte imbalance and what are the symptoms?
An electrolyte imbalance is a condition that occurs when the amounts of electrolytes in the body are either too high or too low. Although the body needs electrolytes in order to function properly, having too much or too little of a certain electrolyte can also be problematic.Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are influenced by which electrolyte is imbalanced, whether too much or too little of the electrolyte is the issue, and how severe the imbalance is. Some people may not have any noticeable symptoms when the imbalance of electrolytes is small, but the symptoms may begin to appear or escalate in intensity when the imbalance becomes more pronounced. Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance may include:
- Extreme thirst
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Confusion or disorientation
- Change in blood pressure
- Muscle cramps, twitching, or spasms
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
How can electrolyte imbalance be prevented?
As demonstrated above, you don’t have to spend your days chugging commercial sports drinks to prevent electrolyte imbalance when there are so many drinks that hydrate better than water. Instead, maintaining a healthy lifestyle rich in beverages and foods that naturally contain electrolytes, along with regular use of an electrolyte supplement, can prevent electrolyte imbalance. Other ways to prevent electrolyte imbalance include:
- Make sure to drink enough water, but not so much that you upset the balance of fluids in your body. Drinking too much water can also cause an electrolyte imbalance called hyponatremia.
- Salt should be used in moderation. Table salt is made up of chloride and sodium, but eating too much can also cause an electrolyte imbalance.
- If you are an excessive sweater, do not exercise indoors without air conditioning.
- Prescription and over the counter medications can sometimes cause an electrolyte imbalance, so make sure you talk to your doctor to ensure that your medications are not contributing to dehydration.
- Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, do not use over the counter diuretics for an extended period of time; use only sparingly.
- Exercise in the early mornings or in the evenings when doing a strenuous workout outdoors. Avoid the hottest part of the day.
- Use water or an electrolyte supplement to replace fluids that are lost during exercise, particularly intense or prolonged periods of exercise.
What foods are high in electrolytes?
Preventing an electrolyte imbalance doesn’t only depend on what you drink; it is possible to get electrolytes from lots of different foods. Many common nutritious foods contain large amounts of electrolytes, including: