Electrolyte Drinks vs. Plain Water: What’s the Difference?October 11, 2022
If you’re like most people, when you think about staying hydrated, plain old water is probably the first thing that comes to mind. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Water is essential for keeping our bodies functioning correctly. But water might not be enough when it comes to exercise and being active. That’s where electrolyte drinks and convenient essentials for active people, like electrolyte powder, come in. But what exactly are electrolytes, and how do they differ from plain old H2O? Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals in our blood, urine, and sweat, including sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium. They are found in your blood, urine and body fluids. Electrolytes are vital because they:
- Maintain the correct balance of fluids in your body.
- Help with muscle contraction.
- Regulate blood pressure.
- Play a role in nerve function.
That’s why it’s essential to replenish them by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming dehydrated. But how do we lose electrolytes, and what happens if we don’t replace them?
How Do We Lose Electrolytes and What Happens?
We lose electrolytes through sweat, urine, and stool. Factors that can lead to electrolyte imbalance include:
- Excessive sweating from exercise or heat exposure
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Kidney disease
If we don’t replace the electrolytes we lose, we can become dehydrated and suffer from an electrolyte imbalance. When this happens, we may experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
So how do electrolyte drinks fit into the picture?
Electrolyte Drinks vs. Plain Water
Electrolyte drinks differ from plain water in a few key ways. First, as mentioned before, electrolyte drinks contain electrolytes (surprise!). This helps replenish the minerals that we lose when we sweat. In addition, electrolyte drinks often contain sugar and other ingredients that help boost our body’s energy. That’s why athletes and people who exercise regularly use them. They need the extra energy to perform at their best.
Contrast this to water, which is essentially just plain old H2O. It doesn’t have any electrolytes or sugar, so it won’t give you an energy boost. However, that doesn’t mean water isn’t necessary! Water is still essential for keeping our bodies hydrated and functioning properly. Staying hydrated is critical for several reasons, including:
- Maintaining proper blood volume
- Regulating body temperature
- Lubricating and cushioning joints
- Flushing waste from the body
- Preventing constipation
- Cognition and focus
So, which is better? Electrolyte drinks or plain water? The answer is: it depends. Water is probably fine if you’re just looking to stay hydrated. But suppose you’re exercising, working out, or have a medical condition. In that case, you might want to consider an electrolyte drink to replace lost fluids and give you a little energy boost.
Choosing the Best Electrolyte Drink for You
As anyone who has ever suffered from dehydration knows, electrolyte drinks are essential for maintaining hydration. However, with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to choose the right one.
Many electrolyte drinks contain a bit of sugar, which can help to replenish glycogen levels and provide energy. However, in some instances, too much sugar can cause problems.
For athletes, sugar can cause gastrointestinal distress and lead to weight gain. In addition, people with medical conditions such as diabetes need to be especially careful about their sugar intake, as too much sugar can exacerbate their condition. Active children and youth also need to be cautious about their sugar intake, as too much sugar can lead to behavioral problems and other health issues.
Fortunately, there are now many sugar-free electrolyte drinks on the market that can provide all the benefits of electrolyte drinks without the potential drawbacks of too much sugar. These are often available as powder-based electrolyte drinks and are easy to take on the go, making them an ideal option for active people of all ages.
Additional Supplements for Optimizing Health and Performance
There are a few different types of supplements that can be added to electrolyte drinks to help optimize health and performance.
- Collagen Protein Powder – If you’re looking to optimize your health and performance, collagen protein powder is a great supplement to pair with your electrolyte drink. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is essential for the health of our skin, hair, nails, and joints. It’s also been shown to improve gut health, which positively affects homeostasis.
- Ketone Drink Mix – This is another excellent option to pair with your electrolyte drink. Ketones are produced when the body breaks down fat for energy, and they can help improve mental clarity and reduce inflammation. Some studies are now focusing on the ability of ketones to enhance endurance and help with weight loss. And, of course, if you’re following the keto diet, then a ketone drink mix is a great way to help you stay in ketosis.
- Magnesium – This essential mineral is necessary for good health and is often found in electrolyte drinks. However, you can take it separately as a capsule or powdered addition. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme systems in the body, including energy production, nerve function, and muscle contraction. It’s also been shown to help improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels.
Final Thoughts on Electrolyte Drinks vs. Plain Water
So, should you reach for an electrolyte drink next time you feel thirsty? It depends! If you’re just going about your day-to-day business and not sweating excessively, and are free of underlying medical conditions, then plain old water will probably suffice. However, if you’re exercising or performing any type of physical activity or have a doctor’s instructions, an electrolyte drink can help prevent dehydration and give you the energy you need to power through your day.