The Truth About Electrolyte Water (Revealed by an RDN)

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If you have ever exercised for greater than one hour or suffered from a stomach bug, you have likely been told to drink an electrolyte drink. Electrolytes are essential minerals that are critical for maintaining proper hydration as well as muscle and nerve function.

One popular way to replenish electrolytes is by drinking electrolyte water or sports drinks. These have become increasingly popular in recent years.

In this blog post, we will explore what electrolyte water is, how it works, when to use it, and whether it’s a good choice for staying hydrated.

📌 Key Takeaways

  • Electrolytes are essential minerals that play a crucial role in maintaining proper hydration as well as muscle and nerve function.
  • Electrolyte water is water that is enhanced with these minerals. Generally, plain water is fine for hydration however electrolyte water can be beneficial during intense exercise, hot weather, and illness.
  • Not all electrolyte waters are created equal and some may contain added sugars or other additives that are not detrimental to overall health if consumed in excess.

🤔 What Are Electrolytes?

When we think of electrolytes, we typically think of sodium and potassium, but it also includes minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and chloride.

All of these minerals carry an electrical energy or charge when dissolved in water and play key roles in the body.

Electrolytes help to regulate and monitor fluid balance in the body, maintain proper muscle and nerve function, and support cardiovascular health.

In addition, they are involved in many other important functions including regulating blood pH levels and transporting nutrients into and out of cells.

Electrocytes in water

🚰 What is Electrolyte Water?

Electrolyte water is water that is enhanced with these minerals. The amount of electrolytes in electrolyte enhanced water varies in concentration. Most bottled water contains trace amounts of these minerals, unless it is distilled.

Common electrolyte water includes enhanced water like Essentia and sports drinks like Nuun, Liquid IV, Gatorade and LMNT.

Tap water also typically contains a small amount of these minerals, unless you have installed a water filtration system that removes all contaminants including minerals like reverse osmosis.

However, in the US, 34 ounces of tap water typically contains about 2-3% of the reference daily intake (RDI) for sodium, calcium and magnesium. It usually has little to no potassium.

In comparison, products like Lifewtr have so little minerals they do not even have the amount listed on the nutrition facts label. Sports drinks like Nuun or LMNT are powders that you mix with water that all have varying amounts of electrolytes and sugar content.

Continue Reading: Top brands of bottled water with electrolytes

⚗️ When Should I Use Electrolyte Water?

Electrolyte drinking water is a beneficial product for staying hydrated in a variety of situations.

It can be particularly helpful during intense exercise, hot weather, and illness, when you may lose fluids and electrolytes and need to replenish them quickly.

During Intense Exercise

When you exercise vigorously, you sweat a lot and lose fluids and electrolytes. Drinking electrolyte water during and after exercise can help replenish these lost minerals and keep you hydrated.

If you are an athlete or exercise regularly, one of the best ways to know how much water or electrolyte water to drink after exercise is to weigh yourself before and after exercise.

For example, if you lost a pound of body weight during exercise, this tells you that you need to drink at least 16 oz of fluid to replete your hydration levels.

Some individuals are heavier sweaters than others. Sports drinks are oftentimes recommended over plain water particularly if you sweat a lot, or are exercising for more than one hour or in hot environments.

Adequate hydration will help you recover more quickly and enhance your performance.

Man drinking water rich in electrocytes after a workout

Prevent Dehydration in Heat

When you exercise in hot environments, this can put you at risk for heat related illnesses. Typically, your body manages heat by releasing it through your breath and sweat.

When it’s hot outside, you may sweat more than usual, which can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. To prevent this, drinking electrolyte water may be beneficial, helping to keep you feeling cool and refreshed.

However, in hot weather, your natural cooling system may not work as well causing your internal temperature to elevate to harmful levels. Heat related illnesses can range from a mild heat rash to heat stroke which can be life threatening.

In heat-related illnesses signs or symptoms are varied but can include nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, fainting, headache or dizziness, vision issues, low blood pressure and excess sweating.

If you have any of these symptoms it is recommended to stop exercising and remove yourself from the heat immediately. If you do not feel better within 20 minutes then it is recommended to seek attention from your medical provider.

Rehydrate When Sick

Outside of exercise, we can also lose electrolytes when we are sick. This is because when we are sick we may be vomiting, having diarrhea or running a fever.

All of these symptoms can cause us to become hydrated because we lose water and electrolytes. Electrolyte drinks can help replenish these lost fluids and minerals and speed up your recovery.

In cases where you are treating severe dehydration, electrolyte containing beverages may not be sufficient. It is recommended to contact your medical provider if symptoms persist more than 24 hours without relief or if you’re unable to keep fluids down.

Sick woman drinking water with electrolytes

👩‍⚕️ So, is Electrolyte Water Better Than Regular Water?

Electrolyte water is often marketed as a better alternative to regular water for hydration, but is it really necessary?

💡 In most cases, plain water is perfectly adequate for staying hydrated. However, there are certain situations where electrolyte water may be beneficial, such as during intense exercise or in cases of dehydration caused by illness.

Electrolyte water can help replace the minerals lost through sweat or vomiting, and may be more effective at rehydrating the body than plain water in these scenarios.

It’s worth noting that not all electrolyte waters are created equal. Some brands may contain added sugars or other additives, which can negate the benefits of the electrolytes.

If you are just drinking electrolyte containing water like Gatorade or Liquid IV daily without exercise, this will only lead to excess sugar and calorie consumption rather than benefiting you.

It’s important to read the labels carefully and choose an electrolyte water that is free from added sugars and other unwanted ingredients.

📑 Conclusion

In conclusion, electrolyte water can be a useful tool for staying hydrated in certain situations, such as during intense exercise or illness.

However, for most people, plain water is perfectly adequate for maintaining hydration levels. It’s important to choose an electrolyte water that is free from added sugars and other unwanted ingredients and to drink it in moderation.

As with any health supplement, it’s always a good idea to consult with a Registered Dietitian if you have any questions about supplements or nutrition in general.

Woman drinking electrolyte water

❔ Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Good to Drink Electrolyte Water Everyday?

It really depends. If you exercise a lot, then having electrolyte water everyday may be beneficial for you in order to hydrate and recover quickly.

However, if you are not exercising, you can get the necessary hydration and electrolytes your body needs from plain water and food.

Particularly, drinking sugar containing electrolyte water may actually be detrimental to your health if you are not using it when paired with exercise. This is because it can contribute to excess sugar and calorie consumption which is associated with negative health effects.

What is the Best Electrolyte Water?

There are many different electrolyte drink products available out there. In general, it is recommended to read the food label and choose a product that is low in added sugars.

How Can I Make Electrolyte Water?

You can certainly make electrolyte water at home, many recipes will recommend using coconut water, salt, juice such as lime, lemon or pomegranate juice.

  • Roxanne Trotter
    MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Roxy, fueled by her love for food and wellness, tackles misinformation head-on. Her Master's in Human Nutrition and diverse experience (weight management, hospitals) equip her to translate complex health topics, especially those related to water quality. Through her own practice (Nutremedies LLC) and writing for Water Filter Guru, Roxy empowers readers with accurate, evidence-based information, helping them make informed choices for a healthier life, one sip at a time.

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