Electrolyte-Enhanced Beverage Debate

If you are a sports drink fan and trying to cut back but still consuming electrolyte-enhanced beverages; while limiting the amount of sugar intake may be a good start, you may be overlooking the amount of salt in your liquid intake. As referenced below, an electrolyte is a derivative of salt that is needed to promote hydration, especially after exercise. The debate about electrolytes is not whether or not they are good for you, but how much of a good thing is too much?

The Science
Electrolyte solutions are normally formed when a salt is placed into a solvent such as water and the individual components dissociate due to the thermodynamic interactions between solvent and solute molecules, in a process called solvation. For example, when table salt, NaCl, is placed in water, the salt (a solid) dissolves into its component ions, according to the dissociation reaction.

Rehydration
In oral rehydration therapy, electrolyte drinks containing sodium and potassium salts replenish the body's water and electrolyte levels after dehydration caused by exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, diaphoresis, diarrhea, vomiting, intoxication or starvation. Athletes exercising in extreme conditions (for three or more hours continuously e.g. marathon or triathlon) who do not consume electrolytes risk dehydration (or hyponatremia).

A simple electrolyte drink can be home-made by using the correct proportions of water, sugar, salt, salt substitute for potassium, and baking soda. However, effective electrolyte replacements should include all electrolytes required by the body, including sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium that can be either obtained in a sports drink or a solid electrolyte capsule.

Electrolytes are commonly found in fruit juices, sports drinks, milk, and many fruits and vegetables (whole or in juice form) (e.g. potatoes, avocados).

Ron Maughan, a professor of sport, exercise and health sciences at Loughborough University, says variability among individuals is so high; people need to be aware of their own level of salt intake in their everyday diets.
“In some people, those who are sensitive to the effects of a high salt diet, the high salt intake will contribute to the development of high blood pressure,” Maughan says. “A lot will depend on whether people are getting a large amount of salt from their regular diet."

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