Dehydration can leave you feeling depleted, exhausted, and performing less than your best. While making sure you take in plenty of water is important, water alone often isn’t enough to help you look, feel, and perform your best. Our bodies require electrolytes in order to balance the levels of fluid in the body, maintain proper muscle function, and support cognitive function, but it is easy to suffer from an electrolyte imbalance if you are not hydrating properly and restoring lost electrolytes. Whether you need a boost after a workout, a big night out, or a long day spent in the heat, electrolyte drinks can help restore balance to the electrolytes in your body and prevent dehydration in the process. If you aren’t sure where to look when it comes to finding the perfect electrolyte drink, read on for a list of the six best electrolyte drinks you should try. The suggestions might surprise you!
Electrolytes are positively or negatively charged mineral substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water and are largely responsible for controlling the balance of fluids in the body. Electrolytes are usually discussed in regards to their impact on nutrition and hydration, since the body needs adequate levels of electrolytes in order to perform many essential functions. Electrolytes are primarily found in the blood, sweat, and urine and are used for the following functions, among others:
- Balancing internal pH levels
- Maintaining proper hydration levels
- Maintaining proper muscle function, including the prevention of cramps and spasms
- Promoting healthy nervous system function
Sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphate, chloride, calcium, and bicarbonate are the seven naturally occurring electrolytes that are found in the human body. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are found in the highest concentrations in the body, and while all of the electrolytes are important, these three play the most critical role in the balance of fluids in the body.
The Six Best Electrolyte Drinks You Should Try
We’re willing to bet that you can name at least one electrolyte drink, but that doesn’t mean that specific drink is the best suited to meet your body’s needs. Electrolytes are vitally important to keep levels of fluids balanced in the body, but you don’t need to add a bunch of calories, sugar, and carbohydrates into an electrolyte drink in order to accomplish this goal. In fact, people once received all the electrolytes they needed from unpurified water, foods, and other beverages, but this is no longer the case. Today, water is usually overpurified, which causes important nutrients, like electrolytes, to be removed from the water. Therefore, water alone probably won’t be enough to prevent dehydration after a big night out, long workout, or a day spent outdoors under the hot sun. Instead, try one of these six electrolyte drinks:
Symptoms of Electrolyte Balance
The body experiences an electrolyte imbalance when levels of any of the seven electrolytes in the body get too low or too high. While we need all of the electrolytes in order to function properly, having too much or too little of any of the electrolytes can create problems. The symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are not uniform and depend on which electrolyte is imbalanced, how severe the imbalance is, and whether too much or too little of the electrolyte is the problem. Some people who are experiencing a mild electrolyte imbalance will not have any noticeable symptoms, but it is common for symptoms to become increasingly noticeable and severe as the imbalance becomes more significant. Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance may include:
- Extreme thirst
- Confusion or disorientation
- Change in blood pressure
- Muscle cramps, twitching, or spasms
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
Preventing an Electrolyte Balance
Preventing an electrolyte imbalance isn’t complicated. Despite what commercials for popular sports drinks may tell you, you don’t need to chug down extra calories and sugar in order to keep your electrolyte levels where they should be. Any of the six best electrolyte drinks outlined above will help you maintain the proper balance of electrolytes, as will adding foods to your diet that are naturally rich in electrolytes. Additionally, there are some general tips that you can follow in order to keep electrolyte balances at bay and help your body function properly. Some tips to prevent electrolyte imbalance include:
- People who sweat profusely should not exercise indoors without air conditioning.
- Medications, including those taken over the counter and by prescription, can occasionally cause an electrolyte imbalance. Therefore, it is important to speak with your doctor when taking medications to confirm that they are not causing or contributing to an electrolyte imbalance.
- To prevent an electrolyte imbalance, make sure that you are drinking an appropriate amount of fluid for your activity level. Drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance in which the body has too little sodium.
- Although table salt is made up of two electrolytes, sodium and chloride, it should be used in moderation. Eating too much salt can lead to an electrolyte imbalance called hypernatremia.
- When exercising, make sure to hydrate regularly using either water or an electrolyte drink to replace fluids that are lost during exercise. You may need to replace electrolytes particularly intense or prolonged workouts.
- Over the counter diuretics should not be used for an extended period of time unless your doctor directs you to do so.
- When working out outdoors in a hot or humid climate, exercise in the early mornings or in the evenings and avoid the hottest part of the day, particularly if the activity will be strenuous.
Natural Sources of Electrolytes
Although getting electrolytes from beverages is important, drinks are not the only natural sources of electrolytes. It is also possible to boost your electrolyte stores by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Many common nutritious foods are considered excellent sources of electrolytes, including: