Firstly, let’s define what electrolytes are and why athletes and people who exercise must consume them regularly. Electrolytes are mineral salts essential for cell development, generally found in our blood, urine and other bodily fluids.

The most common electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. They are vital because they help to regulate hydration, acidity and muscle activity. They are available in a variety of forms, such as capsules, gels, powder or drinks containing these minerals.

Key Facts

  • You should know that water does not contain electrolytes, so you should obtain them through another source before, during and after exercise.
  • You do not have to be thirsty in order to hydrate. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when exercise is integrated into your daily life.
  • There are currently hundreds of products which you can use to hydrate and replenish electrolytes during and following exercise; however, not all of them are adequate and effective.

Ranking: The Best Electrolytes on the U.S. Market

Ionized drinks, which advertise themselves as being a method of replenishing electrolytes, are very common these days. They feature heavily in sports advertising. This means that it is important to know the difference between flashy marketing and a useful product. To help you make this distinction, here is a list of the best options on the U.S. market:

No. 1: Hi Lyte Electrolyte Supplement for Rapid Hydration

Electrolyte concentrate which replaces electrolytes lost due to sweat, exercise or any other dehydrating situation. Perfectly formulated for a Keto Diet. Hi-Lyte’s support mechanisms include: Reduces heat stress, cramping, nausea and fatigue. Supports energy, muscle recovery & gain, and endurance.

Antioxidants support and healthy immune system function.  Ionic minerals are smaller than cell pathways making them easier to be absorbed. Hi-Lyte was designed for the demanding needs of endurance athletes such as Cyclists, Runners, Swimmers, Triathletes, Cross-fitters and even Yogis. 

No. 2: Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier, Electrolyte Powder, Easy Open Packets

Non-GMO electrolyte powder mixes into 16oz of water for rapid hydration. Three times the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks with less than half the sugar and calories. Contains 11 essential minerals and vitamins & more Vitamin C than an orange, more potassium than a banana. 110% Daily Value of Vitamin C, B3, B5, B6, and B12. 1 packet can provide the same hydration as drinking 2-3 bottles of water. Maximize your hydration, replenish your body.

Utilizes breakthrough science of Cellular Transport Technology (CTT), a specific ratio of potassium, sodium, and glucose that delivers water and other key nutrients directly to your bloodstream, hydrating you faster and more efficiently than water alone. Expedited water delivery system in the body that creates a wholesome feeling for you. Clean, simple, premium ingredients. Made in the United States. No artificial sweeteners, colors, flavor or preservatives. Free of gluten, dairy, and soy. 100% Vegan.

No. 3: New Ultima Hydrating Electrolyte Powder

Ultima contains 6 electrolytes plus trace minerals that work together to provide complete hydration without stomach upset so you can feel and perform your best. Electrolytes help with preventing cramps, help muscle contractions and functions, cardiac muscle support and more to help your body perform optimally.

Great for on-the-go hydration and to help cure dehydration during/after travel and hangovers. Ultima is sweetened with organic stevia leaf and made with real fruit ‑flavors that taste delicious. Ultima is Keto-Friendly, Paleo-Friendly, Vegan, Sugar-Free, Zero Calorie, Gluten-Free and Non-GMO.

No. 4: LyteLine LyteShow Electrolyte Concentrate

LyteShow is an electrolyte-replenishing, liquid concentrate made for those who don’t want unnecessary additives, sweeteners, or calories in their hydration products. Its mineral base is naturally sourced in the USA and clinically tested to be a significantly more efficient form of hydration than water alone. Each 4 oz. bottle contains 40 servings of LyteShow concentrate. Contains no calories, sweeteners, carbohydrates, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

How Does LyteShow Compare To Sports Drinks? Not only do most sports drinks contain calories, sweeteners, and artificial additives, they often only include one or two types of electrolytes (usually sodium and/or potassium). LyteShow puts a lower emphasis on sodium – readily available in the American diet – and emphasizes magnesium. Non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes

Whenever you use any product to improve your health and wellbeing, it is important to understand what it is and how it works. Companies spend large amounts of money on advertising to promote products which may or may not be suitable for what you need. So you need to know how to determine which products will suit your needs.

When we sweat we eliminate harmful substances, but also electrolytes and minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron.
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What are electrolytes exactly?

Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) advises that electrolytes are substances which encourage “fluid absorption and fluid retention”. Electrolytes stimulate electrolysis, a chemical process where a given substance is dissolved through the action of an electrical current.

Electrolytes are sometimes also known as ‘ionic solutions,’ though they are also found in the form of molten solids. In nature, they are found as solid salts.

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The most common elements found in the human body are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and phosphates.

What benefits can electrolytes provide for my body?

According to the USA National Library of Medicine’s medical information service MedlinePlus, electrolytes perform various functions in the human body. These include transporting nutrients to the cells, eliminating cell waste, and improving muscle function.

Below are the different functions of electrolytes:

  • Balance pH (acid/base) levels in the body.
  • Transport nutrients to cells.
  • Remove waste from cells.
  • Promote the healthy functioning of the muscles, heart and brain.

Is the timing of when you take your electrolytes important?

The answer to this is a resounding “yes!” When we sweat we lose salt, potassium and chloride, three minerals which are fundamental for the proper functioning of the human body in a variety of ways. For this reason, it is important to replace these electrolytes during and following physical exertion.

We can also lose electrolytes through our urine, faeces and through bleeding, making it important to replenish these essential elements when you are sick, or after a big night of drinking, as alcohol is a diuretic and when you drink too much you dehydrate and lose minerals through constant urination.

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Electrolytes are minerals found in the blood and other bodily liquids which carry an electrical charge.

What effects do each type of electrolytes have?

Our bodies get rid of harmful substances through our sweat. However, when we sweat we also expel electrolytes and important minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron. After working out or exercising for long periods, it is critical to recover these electrolytes, because they are essential for regulating the different functions of the human body.

Electrolyte Function
Calcium Essential for proper nerve and muscle function.

The principle component of bones and teeth.

Magnesium Increases physical performance when exercising, is anti-inflammatory, can lower blood pressure and reduce insulin resistance.
Phosphorus Responsible for storing our metabolism’s energy.

Improves nerve and muscle function and is essential for maintaining calcium levels in bones and teeth.

Potassium Necessary for proper cell membrane and muscle function. Also regulates heart rate, kidneys, and is vital for hydration.
Sodium Contributes to the digestive process and the distribution of fluids in the body. Fundamental to muscle and nervous system function.

Does how much you sweat indicate a need for electrolytes?

Sweat, as well as contributing to cooling you down and filtering out harmful substances, can also tell you that you are in need of electrolytes.

Kelly PritchettAssistant Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Science, Central Washington University

“Your goal should be to maintain your electrolytes at healthy levels during exercise. When you maintain your electrolytes at the correct level, you ensure that your body can absorb and use whatever fluids you take in, your vital organs function properly, and that you get the most out of each workout.”.

Can consuming electrolytes have any adverse side effects?

Again the answer is “yes.” Everything is harmful if taken in excess, and electrolytes are no exception. The excessive intake of electrolytes can cause have the opposite of the desired effect and actually make you dehydrated because of excess levels of salts. It is easy to recognize the symptoms caused by taking more electrolytes than our body needs.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dizzyness
  • Vomitting
  • Diarrhea

An excess of potassium in our blood can also lead to hypercalcemia, a chronic kidney disease that is caused by the kidneys being unable to filter high levels of this mineral. Below is the recommended daily dose of electrolytes for adults:

Electrolyte Daily recommended dosage (adults)
Calcium 1,000 mg
Magnesium 400–420 mg for men and  between 310-320 mg for women
Phosphorous 700 mg
Potassium 3,400 mg for men and 2,600 mg for women
Sodium 1,600 mg

Can you take electrolytes in a natural form?

We can give our body all the minerals that it needs with a healthy and balanced diet based on natural products. However, it is difficult to accurately measure the amount of electrolytes we need after strenuous physical activity or when we are unwell, both situations when we lose an unusual amount of fluids, however much we want to monitor our diet.

An important source of calcium is milk and its products, such as cheese and yogurt. Many of these dairy products also contain sodium, chloride and iodine. On the other hand, magnesium and potassium can be found in green vegetables such as spinach.

Flavor is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing electrolytes.
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Shopping Criteria

There are many forms in which you can consume electrolytes, such as drinks, gels, capsules and powders which can be dissolved in water or in shakes, each providing different amounts of electrolytes. Many of them contain carbohydrates, which give the body energy during strenuous exercise. Some of the issues to consider are:

  • Carb Loading
  • Type of Electrolytes
  • Calories and Protein
  • Taste

Carb Loading

For long-term exercises such as cycling or triathlon, or sports that involve intense physical effort, it is recommended to drink isotonic drinks with a high concentration of carbohydrates. These drinks also help when exercising in hot climates, which translates into sweating a lot more.

The amount of carbohydrates you should consume depends on the energy you are expending. What for some is the healthy amount, for others can be harmful. The recommended carbohydrate consumption for a person undergoing a normal level of physical activity is 70 grams per meal, extending between 30 and 60 grams directly after a workout.

Everything can be harmful in excess, and electrolytes are no exception to this rule.
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Types of electrolytes

As previously mentioned, each mineral has its own purpose, so we must take into account the level of activity in order to calculate how much electrolyte we must replace. For example, coconut water is rich in potassium and magnesium, so its consumption is ideal to recover some essential electrolytes after exercising.

Joy DubostBoard-Certified Sports Dietitian based in New York City

“In general, water is only recommended for exercise that lasts up to an hour. If exercising for more than an hour, especially if it’s at a higher intensity (meaning you aren’t stretching for 90 minutes straight), then a sports drink is likely necessary”.

Calories and Protein

There are drinks rated at 25 grams that contain 95 calories, 0 proteins and 23 grams of carbohydrates. On the other hand, there are others that with an equal intake contain more than 100 calories, 2 grams of protein and more than 20 grams of carbohydrates. Choosing the right one depends on what you are looking to achieve.

Proteins build and repair muscles, while carbohydrates give us energy in the short term.

Coconut water is rich in potassium and magnesium, meaning that it is ideal for recovering some essential electrolytes lost while exercising.
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Taste

Flavor is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting our electrolytes. In the end, if something is not pleasant to drink, it will deter us from using it and so it is important to find one that not only revitalizes us but for which we also enjoy the taste.

Fortunately, there are many flavors available, making a diverse range of available products. There are citrus fruits and tropical flavors. There are also some with vanilla or chocolate flavor.

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Red meat, fish, seafood and all vegetables are also an important source of electrolytes.

Summary

We live in times when taking care of ourselves is synonymous with exercising and eating well. We now have more information about how our bodies really work, the effect of exercise on the human body and how nutrients transform us. This has led to an evolution of products designed to help us improve our performance.

These products give the body what it loses naturally through the wear and tear sustained during exercise or through excessive fluid loss, therefore they are critical in bouncing back to 100% after an intense workout or following an illness.

For this reason, the sports industry provides a number of products which give us a wide range of options to adapt to our needs with different formats, flavors, presentations and quantity of salts as our body requires.

If you liked our guide on electrolytes, please leave us a comment and share the article.

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