Who Says Only Marathon Runners and Olympic Athletes
Need Electrolyte Replacement?
I’ve read a number of times that sports drinks and electrolyte replacement isn’t necessary for the average individual that works out about for an hour every day. I might agree that a steady diet of sport drinks in place of water isn’t a good idea because they are high in calories and sugar and can destroy the enamel on your teeth if you sip them throughout the day.
But, on extremely hot summer days, such as we’ve had nearly everyday in the midwest this season, daily activities like yard work, getting in and out of a 100 plus degree car to run errands, and taking a daily walk can cause significant fluid loss. And we don’t just lose water. We sweat out potassium, sodium, minerals and other nutrients.
Several days of moderate activities in intense heat can result in fluid loss that leads to fatigue, low energy and lack of motivation. If you collapse into the recliner at night after a hot day and feel exhausted from the heat, you may need to hydrate with something other than plain water, especially if you perspire heavily.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals including sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate and are essential for normal cell and organ function. They are present in the body wherever there is water: blood, cells and cell surroundings. Electrolytes are responsible for creating the electrical impulses that trigger all aspects of physical activity.
Symptoms that occur when one or more of these minerals is depleted is confusion, weakness, muscle cramps, fatigue, high or low blood pressure. When electrolytes are low, physical activity is compromised and exercise performance is reduced. If nothing else, a general feeling of malaise may persist. One way to make sure we don’t run short on these essential nutrients is to replace them if we are out in the heat. The hotter it is, the more we need to be aware of the possibility that we could be running on empty.
Sodium and potassium are the electrolytes that are lost in the most abundance through sweat. (For a list of symptoms associated with depletion of each electrolyte click here.)
Four of the Best Options for Fluid Replacement Beyond Plain Water
- Coconut Water – There’s been a lot of hype about coconut water and claims that it is a waste of money. It is, however, a natural electrolyte replacement containing as much potassium (680 mg per 11 ounces) as two bananas. It is low in sodium (40 mg) – maybe too low if your sodium levels are low – and low in calories (80) and fat. It is argued that coconut water is better for us because it is derived from the coconut plant and has less sugar that many sports drinks. Coconut water is trendy and has become popular with athletes. John Isner credits coconut water with keeping him on his feet for his epic 11-hour marathon Wimbledon tennis win.
- Zero Powerade – One of the most popular sport drinks on the market, Powerade comes in a variety of flavors. It has more sodium than coconut water but less potassium (35 mg per 8 oz). The high sodium (55 mg.) level of Powerade is to keep people thirsty so they don’t stop drinking before their fluids are completely replenished. The high sodium content may be too much for some people either because of the salty taste or medical issues. *Only the sweetened brands contain carbohydrates.
- Chocolate Almond Milk – More sodium (190 g per 8 oz.), potassium (122 mg per 8 oz.) and carbs (23 g) than Powerade plus one gram of protein per cup. Calories come in at 120 for an eight ounce serving. Over ice, this is a thirst quenching, replenishing drink that will fill you up a little more than the coconut water or sports drink. Plain almond milk (as in minus the chocolate) does not contain as much potassium and is lower in carbohydrates, but still has 150 mg of sodium and 60 mgs of potassium per 8 ounce serving.
- Homemade ‘Smart’ Water – Slice a lemon, lime, and an orange. Toss them, along with a few rings of fresh pineapple, into a pitcher of water and let it stand in the refrigerator overnight. You’ll have near zero-calorie ice water that has absorbed the potassium from the citrus. No sodium is present but this jazzy water is perfect for washing down a handful of salted almonds.
Coconut Powerhouse Replacement Water
You can try a variety of sports drinks, flavored vitamin and coconut waters and experiment with chocolate soy or fat-free cow’s milk to find out what your system is craving. Or, take a serving of zero Powerade – or other sports drink – mix it with plain coconut water, pour it over ice, garnish with a slice of lemon, and you have your own liquid powerhouse. It’s my own concoction: Coconut Powerhouse Replacement Water. It tastes pretty good!
Do you think I’m on to something, or is the name too long?
What’s your go-to drink when the temperature goes over 98 degrees for eight days in a row?