Many sports drinks on the market these days tout the restorative power of electrolytes, but what exactly are electrolytes anyway and why are they so important?
Electrolytes are minerals found in our body that carry an electric charge. The most common electrolytes in our diets are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and they keep our body's PH in check. Electrolytes are also responsible for regulating our hydration levels, which is why sports drinks are constantly harping on their power to "replenish" and "rehydrate."
Electrolytes are extremely important, but they're also commonly found in most nutritious foods and drinks in our diets, and it's pretty hard to significantly deplete them unless you're very dehydrated. Electrolytes are lost during sweat, but unless you're exercising at a high intensity for a long duration, water can be just as effective at keeping you hydrated. Check out this Washington Post article to see other information on when it may be a good time to have sports drink.
Another thing to keep in mind is that lots of sports drinks are also loaded with sugar, which may give you a quick energy boost, but hey, so will a candy bar. If you are going to be exerting yourself and want to reach for an energy drink or a sports drink, here are a few good options:
Who knew Gatorade had an organic line? It tastes as good as the original, without the chemicals, and there's no added color.
Nooma uses stevia, a natural sweetener without the high calorie profile, so it tastes great and won't be a diet buster.
If you're looking for something simple but still want the added benefits of electrolytes and nutrients, propel is just your average water with a boost. Can't get much simpler than that.
Another enhanced water alternative, deionized water with added electrolytes for optimum hydration. No sugar, no artificial flavoring or anything!
The bottom line is you may want to reach for a healthy sports drink if you're really exerting yourself, but it's not always necessary. Our bodies are very good at naturally keeping our electrolytes in balance as long as we're properly nourished, so you don't need to micromanage them unless you're losing significant fluids, in which case go ahead and enjoy a sports drink. Just remember not all sports drinks are created equal, so always check the label if you're trying to steer clear of sugar and chemicals!
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