Do you need to replace electrolytes on these hot steamy days?

A recent visit back to my hometown in Indiana inspired me to answer this very question. My dad always has his refrigerator stocked with little bottles of Gatorade for him and the grandkids and I was reminded that many people believe Gatorade is the best way to hydrate. He was a little offended and surprised when I told him that it wasn’t the healthiest thing to offer the kids. “What? Why not? Don’t they need electrolytes after playing outside?” he said. I get where he is coming from, I do… Here is the gist of what I told him…

Sports drinks tout themselves as electrolyte replacers and marketers have made us believe that a sports drink is the best way to quench our thirst and replace our electrolytes on a hot summer day. But is it really?

What the sport drink companies don’t tell you is that sports drinks are designed for athletes or those who exercise intensely for more than 60 minutes, not your average person or kid. Most of us can easily get enough electrolytes from food. Plus no one really benefits from the added sugar, artificial flavors, and colorings that are found in many sports drinks.

Did you know: The amount of sodium and potassium in a sports drink is low compared to what you eat in typical meals.

But what if you ARE an athlete or you just sweat a lot in this heat?

For every CUP of sweat, you can expect to lose around 225mg of sodium, 50mg of potassium, 4mg of calcium and 3g of magnesium. Are you sweating that much? If so, you might benefit from a 12 ounce serving of Gatorade which contains 80 calories, 21g carbs, 160mg sodium and 45mg potassium. You could also just drink a cup of chocolate milk.

8 ounces of chocolate milk contains 120 calories, 20g carbs, 150mg sodium, 350mg potassium. It also has calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, protein, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins A, B12 and D.

Marathoners and other endurance athletes who don’t eat much before or during exercise would be wise to choose a sports drink.  In contrast, hikers, bicyclists, and people who eat before and during lengthy workouts can do fine with just plain water. That’s because food helps retain fluid in your body. In comparison, plain water consumed on an empty stomach quickly goes in one end, out the other.

If you are planning to sweat for more than four hours in this NC heat, a sports drink is helpful but not your only option. You can eat salty foods beforehand. A salty meal can help your body retain fluid, keep you hydrated longer and will enhance endurance.

Bottom Line

If you are exercising for less than an hour/day and eating 3 balanced meals you are likely getting plenty of electrolytes through your diet. So for most of us, we don’t need to do anything special to replace electrolytes. We do, however, need to stay hydrated and the best way to do that is by simply drinking water.

Endurance athletes need extra electrolytes during longer bouts of exercise and may benefit from a sports drink. Food is usually a better source than sports drinks and athletes can choose salty foods before and after workouts to aid in performance and recovery.

Have questions about your personal electrolyte and nutrition needs? Contact us today to set up your own personal wellness adventure.  

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