Importance and types of electrolyte drinks
Electrolytes are minerals that have a positive or negative electric charge. They are commonly found in our bloodstream, urine, bodily fluids, organs, and tissues. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body, while other main electrolytes include potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium. These electrolytes function for multiple critical bodily functions and are vital to maintaining the optimum levels for the organs to function normally. Here is what you must know about electrolyte drinks.
Importance of electrolytes
Our body has about 60% water, and every cell contains electrolytes. They perform multiple functions in our body like:
Maintaining the ideal amount of water in our body and keeping it hydrated
Maintaining the perfect pH levels
Transporting nutrients to different cells
Disposing cell waste
Repairing and rebuilding tissue
Regulating nerve and muscle function
Electrolyte levels in our body can fluctuate based on our level of activity and current health condition and may become high or low. Low electrolyte levels can cause spasms, fatigue, muscle weakness, respiratory problems, kidney disease, or paralysis. Electrolyte imbalances can also lead to cardiac arrest, seizures, or coma. If the levels are too low, one of the quickest ways to increase them is through electrolyte drinks.
When to consume electrolyte drinks
The amount of water we drink should be enough to make up for the loss of fluids from our body through sweat and urine. We may lose more fluid if we have bouts of nausea or diarrhea. If we lose more water in a day than we drink, it can lead to dehydration. Other causes of dehydration are:
Being outdoors during extreme heat
Intense physical labor, exercise or sporting activity
Chronic respiratory issues like emphysema
Higher pH levels
Side effects of pills or treatments such as laxatives, diuretics
Components of electrolyte drinks
Electrolytes are watery drinks containing single or multiple minerals to help you rehydrate. The composition of minerals in different electrolyte drinks may vary. You can find natural electrolyte drinks and commercial drinks made for specific purposes. An electrolyte drink can be made up of one or more of the following components:
Sugar is a common ingredient in sports drinks as it helps in quicker water absorption and helps in faster rehydration. Strenuous physical activity increases insulin sensitivity. During a workout, muscles contract and use all the available insulin faster, causing a reduction in blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar can remain low for 24 hours after an intense activity. That is why after exercising, sports drinks help maintain the right sugar levels.
Minerals like sodium and potassium
Generally, doctors advise to avoid foods rich in sodium (read salt) as it can lead to hypertension. But low sodium levels caused by a low-salt meal, nausea, dehydration, or diarrhea can increase the level of Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH), which is necessary for the kidney to regulate water in our body. High ADH levels cause the kidney to produce less urine and lead to complications. It can also lead to fluid imbalances, seizures, and cerebral edema. Sodium-rich electrolytes can quickly restore the level of sodium and minerals like potassium.
Types of electrolytes
You can buy electrolyte drinks over the counter. Some specific supplements may require a prescription if they are used to treat electrolyte disorders. The different types of electrolyte drinks include:
Coconut water is one of the best naturally available electrolyte drinks as it contains four main electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. As it does not contain sugar, it may not restore sugar levels but can prevent any mineral imbalance. Doctors recommend coconut water as a restorative electrolyte during recovery from any illness.
Fresh cow milk has always been a wholesome food containing vitamins, protein, and minerals. A glass of milk can help in the restoration of electrolytes. One must avoid cow’s milk for two or three days if they experience flatulence or diarrhea. Plant-based alternatives like almond, hemp, rice, and soy milk are good electrolyte drink choices.
Some fruit juices are rich in minerals and can serve as an excellent electrolyte drink. Watermelon, cherry, and orange juice contain magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. All you need to do is dilute the juice with water, as it may be rich in sugar.
Commercial electrolyte drinks
The market is filled with various types of sports drinks and other electrolyte drinks for specific purposes, for sportspersons, children and pregnant women. Sports drinks typically contain the required minerals, sugar, carbs, and fluids for athletes to stay hydrated. Commercial beverages for children and pregnant women contain electrolytes but are low on sugar to restore the minerals lost due to nausea or diarrhea. So, it is best if you always check the labels and ingredients of commercial electrolyte drinks before purchasing. Here are some of the leading electrolyte drinks:
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