Which sports drinks, powders, and pills deliver the right electrolytes?

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Which sports drinks, powders, and pills deliver the right electrolytes?

For many years, I’ve strongly recommended ConsumerLab.com for evidence-based and trustworthy advice about purchasing or ingesting herbs, vitamins, or supplements. This week I’m running some samples of their wares and encourage you to subscribe to this great site if you take or are considering any natural medicines. Oh, by the way, I have no financial connection to ConsumerLab at all.

This is the “Executive Summary” of ConsumerLab’s recent article: See Which Sports Drinks, Powders, and Pills Deliver the Right Electrolytes.

  • Who needs electrolyte replacement? As long as you are fairly healthy and eat a balanced diet, if you work out for an hour, you only need water to recover; you don’t need an “electrolyte” supplement. Only when doing strenuous exercise for long periods of time (i.e., 90 minutes or more) are you likely to be sweating out enough electrolytes (primarily sodium) to require replenishment. After a long period of strenuous exercise, a drink or food that provides some sugar (energy) may also help restore blood sugar levels and help maintain your energy levels. Electrolyte or “sports” drinks can be helpful in these situations, but so can drinking water and consuming foods that provide the right electrolytes as well sugars. Be aware that rehydration is also important for people with diarrhea, with replenishment of potassium and chloride, as well as sodium, being important. (See When Do You Need Replenishment?) It is commonly believed that electrolyte replenishment helps with symptoms of a hangover from alcohol consumption, but there does not appear to be clinical evidence supporting this use — although electrolyte disturbances can occur along with chronic alcohol abuse.
    For more details, see When Do You Need Replenishment?
  • Which are the best electrolyte and sports recovery products? ConsumerLab’s tests showed that most products provided their listed amounts of sodium and other electrolytes and sugars (one did not), but amounts of sodium ranged 20-fold, and some products do not appear to be appropriate for sports recovery (see What CL Found). Our Top Pick among electrolyte products provided amounts of sodium and potassium, as well as sugar, in-line with recommendations for a sports beverage, and was well-priced compared to other products. We also identified a low-cost electrolyte supplement that could provide the right amounts of sodium and potassium for sports recovery. For rehydration due to diarrhea, we also identified a Top Pick that provides a higher concentration of sodium, as well as more appropriate levels of potassium and chloride, than most other products, as well as some sugar.
  • Tips for preventing dehydration and for rehydrating: The following tips are explained in more detail in this Review:
    • Dress to permit sweat to evaporate, such as lighter and water-permeable clothing.
    • Don’t drink large amounts of water or electrolyte drinks right before exercising. Instead, prehydrate at least several hours before the activity.
    • Drink periodically during exercise, as well as afterward.
    • Be aware that drinking excessive water without electrolytes can be a problem.
    • People over 65 should be aware that they may have a blunted thirst response, making them more susceptible to dehydration.
    • Consider taking additional measures to avoid heat-related illness when the environment is particularly hot or humid.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2022. This blog provides healthcare tips and advice that you can trust about a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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