Electrolytes and Sports Drinks

Sports DrinksIf you exercise heavily, electrolytes can be lost with your sweat. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant.

By: Natasha Morgan

Gatorade, Propel and other sports drinks have become popular among women participating in sports at all levels. Extensive advertising has been geared to convince you that electrolytes found in these drinks are necessary for a healthy body function when you are active.

Many unbiased studies on the benefits of sports drinks have been conducted and the results show that “the jury is still out”.

Some suggest that for exercise lasting longer than 60 to 90 minutes athletes should drink a carbohydrate and salt replacement fluid like Gatorade.

Others report that for most people, water is the best beverage to drink.

Replenishing the body’s electrolytes is not necessary since sodium and potassium are both plentiful in the American diet.

While recognizing the controversy, most studies agree that sports drinks can be beneficial for those hard-core athletes who participate in long endurance events.

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are basically salts that become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. The balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is essential for normal function of our cells and our organs. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate. The functions and normal range values for these electrolytes are important, and if an electrolyte is at an extreme low or high, it can be fatal.

Electrolytes are important because your cells use them to maintain voltages across their membranes and to carry electrical impulses between cells. When changes occur in your body, the kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in blood constant. If you exercise heavily, electrolytes can be lost with your sweat. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant.

Consuming sports drinks during exercise will provide important electrolytes such as sodium chloride or potassium chloride but they also contain sugar which adds calories to your diet. Relying on water to hydrate your body during moderate exercise may be sufficient to keep you functioning optimally.

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