Electrolyte drinks contain essential elements like sodium, potassium and magnesium, along with carbohydrates and sweeteners. These drinks were originally designed to help people recover quickly from electrolyte loss due to excessive exercise, dehydration and illness. Choose drinks that treat a general electrolyte imbalance or select drinks that address common imbalances in sodium or potassium.
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Select isotonic sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade or Accelerade for general electrolyte replacement. Unless you're training for a marathon, or exercising for more than 4 hours at a time, you don't need anything more than the electrolyte levels present in most sports drinks. Look for a combination that includes up to 80 g of potassium, 45 g of sodium and up to 25 mg of magnesium.
Save money and make your own electrolyte replacement drink. Pick up a packet of sweetened fruit drink (taste), and mix in 2 qts. of water, 1/2 cup of sugar (carbohydrates), 1/2 tsp. of salt (sodium) and 1/2 cup orange juice (potassium). You can also replace sodium quickly by adding a pinch of salt to 8 oz. of water.
Select a hypertonic (high carbohydrate content) electrolyte replacement drink to help your body recover from long and intense workouts. Look for drinks with added protein for energy and antioxidants to help muscles recover from the strain and stress of longer workouts. Pick up high endurance powdered drinks from Cytomax, EFS and Revenge Sport and mix them at home to save money.
Stock up on Pedialyte if you've got an infant or you're taking care of an elderly parent who is suffering from dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea. Dehydration often goes hand in hand with a loss of essential elements like potassium and sodium. Make sure parent or child sips his beverage slowly if he's having trouble keeping food down. As long as he replaces more fluids than he loses, he will replace lost electrolytes over time.
Hit the health food store and pick up some coconut water for a refreshing alternative to sports drinks. Coconut water contains higher than average levels of potassium, one of the more important electrolytes for muscle function.
Tips and warnings
- Skip trendy vitamin-infused waters. They don't provide you with electrolytes, they're expensive and you should get the daily vitamins you need in the foods you eat.
- Consult your doctor if vomiting or diarrhea persist for more than 24 hours.