Drinking more water when we exercise can help replenish lost fluids, but it does not help replace lost electrolytes. When we exercise, electrolytes are lost through a process known as thermoregulatory sweating. This process explains why many athletes and people who perform high-intensity exercises often look to electrolyte supplements to help replenish their bodies after a hard workout. Replacing the lost electrolytes with an electrolyte power can help support the body’s recovery and support the rehydration process.
While there are many electrolyte powder products on the market, not all are created equally. As a shopper, this can lead you to feel overwhelmed in knowing what to purchase. Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know about shopping for and using electrolyte powder supplements.
Before we dive into shopping for the best electrolyte powder, it’s important to understand the proper usage of electrolytes. Electrolyte powders contain common minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium. These minerals play a vital role in helping to maintain healthy fluid levels and supporting brain and muscle function. According to research published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers found that sodium is lost in the greatest amounts during exercise. In just one workout, a person can lose anywhere from 360mg to 1,620 mg of sodium, depending on intensity.
During and after tough workouts, overhydrating with water without replacing the electrolytes lost can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. An electrolyte imbalance can then leave you with uncomfortable symptoms, such as nausea or headaches.
For athletes or people working out at a moderate-to-intense level, drinking electrolyte powder every day can be safe and effective. Electrolyte powders can be used before, during, or after your workout to help support performance and improve recovery. The amount of electrolyte powder you’ll need depends on your intensity level and duration of workout, as well as how much electrolytes you get from your diet.
For most athletes, one to three servings of electrolytes is enough to help restore healthy electrolyte levels in the body. After exposure to extreme heat, your body may require additional electrolytes after sweating more. Some people also find that electrolyte powders are useful when sick to replace the fluids lost from excessive vomiting or diarrhea.
For the average sedentary person, consuming electrolyte powder may not be necessary. While consuming electrolytes regularly is not necessarily harmful, consuming too much without the need for them can also cause electrolyte imbalances. If you notice any symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, such as an irregular heart rate or headaches, it may be a sign you’re consuming too many electrolytes. A medical professional can also perform blood testing to check on your electrolyte levels.
Electrolyte powder is a great supplement to use in combination with a well-rounded diet. However, consuming foods and drinks naturally high in electrolytes is the best way to ensure optimal electrolyte levels. One great source of natural electrolytes is unsweetened coconut water, which contains 350mg of potassium per cup. Unsweetened coconut water is widely available at many grocery stores and health food stores and also tastes delicious! Other health foods to help replenish potassium levels include bananas, avocados, and leafy greens.
To replenish sodium levels, snacks like salted nuts (such as macadamia nuts) can provide a healthy dose of sodium while also offering other benefits like healthy fats. High levels of magnesium are found in foods such as spinach and pumpkin seeds.
With many different electrolyte powder products on the market, it can be difficult to know which product to purchase. Different electrolyte products may cater to different needs, such as different levels of exercise intensity or powders to meet specific dietary needs. When shopping for an electrolyte powder, you’ll want to pay attention to the types of minerals included and their doses. Always read the ingredients and nutrition facts label before purchasing. After all, some electrolyte powders may promote rehydration but actually contain very little of the necessary electrolytes you wish to replenish.
When shopping for electrolyte powders, also look at available flavors and packaging options (single serving sticks, canisters, etc.) to help choose the product that is best suited for your needs.
Electrolyte powders with carbohydrates
Some electrolyte powders, such as Skratch Labs Hydration Mixes, contain small doses of carbohydrates via cane sugar and dextrose. Products with these ingredients are geared toward athletes performing high-intensity or high-duration exercises, such as running or cycling. The carbohydrates in these electrolyte mixes, alongside the minerals, are intended to provide a burst of energy to help sustain long periods of exercise. Unlike other electrolyte powders, these also contain calories and should not be consumed when practicing intermittent fasting.
Sugar-free electrolyte powders
Sugar-free electrolyte powders are also available, such as the many flavors of Ultima Replenisher. Unlike electrolytes with carbohydrates, sugar-free electrolyte powders are better for people with diabetes, on the ketogenic diet, or those who are intermittent fasting. Sugar-free electrolyte powders provide the same benefits of replenishing lost minerals without the spike in blood sugar caused by added carbohydrates.
Electrolytes for specific dietary needs
For those with specific dietary needs, you’ll want to look for electrolyte powders that meet your preferences, such as vegan, paleo-friendly, non-GMO, kosher, or products with artificial ingredients. Nuun Sport Hydration is a great brand that is Orthodox Kosher-certified and vegan. Ultima Replenisher is also a great option that is vegan, paleo-friendly, and keto-friendly.
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