If TikTok is to be believed, the sexy-water trend—a.k.a. elevating plain water—isn’t going anywhere. Do you need to add collagen supplements, vitamin tinctures, or slices of fruit to your water bottle? Absolutely not, but do whatever keeps you hydrated in 2024, queen. In some cases, however, dietitians feel that adding electrolyte powders to your H2O can be a beneficial way to help you meet your hydration goals. Here’s everything you need to know about when to use them, how often they can be taken safely, and which brands dietitians recommend.
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What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are essential minerals (including sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, and bicarbonates) that are vital to the human body. They’re key to helping you stay hydrated and “play a crucial role in a variety of bodily functions, including pH balance, nerve and muscle function, blood pressure regulation, and turning nutrients into energy,” Maggie Michalczyk, a Chicago-based registered dietitian, tells Glamour.
If you’re eating a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, you’re most likely getting plenty of electrolytes. There are also plenty of situations in which you may lose significant amounts of electrolytes quickly. Working out, sweating in intense heat, and dealing with vomiting or diarrhea can all cause electrolyte levels to dip, says Jen Scheinman, MS, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York.
When should you take electrolytes?
Electrolytes are “unsung heroes in nutrition,” says Scheinman. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an electrolyte imbalance (having too much or too little of certain electrolytes) can cause a variety of problems, ranging in severity from nausea and irritability to confusion and arrhythmia. In situations during which your electrolyte levels may be low, say, after an intense workout or in the middle of heat wave, you might notice symptoms like muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue. “The amount of electrolytes you lose each day depends on your weight, activity level, even the weather,” Niket Sonpal, MD, a physician and adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, tells Glamour. In most cases, “we can replenish lost fluids and minerals through a combination of food and water,” he says.
Where can I find electrolytes in my diet?
Before thinking about supplements, take a look at your diet. You can find electrolytes in most whole foods—fruits, veggies, dairy products, animal products, nuts, and seeds all contain electrolytes. If you need a boost to help you maintain your fluid balance, “bananas, oranges, potatoes, and leafy greens are all great sources of potassium,” a key electrolyte, says Scheinman. “Leafy greens are also a great source of calcium and magnesium.” If you’re looking for an “electrolyte powerhouse” opt for beans, which are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, she adds.
Do electrolyte powders really work?
“Years ago we all believed that we needed sports drinks to replenish electrolytes,” says Dr. Sonpal. “We later learned that unless you are a hard-core professional athlete, you don’t need these and they are full of sugar.” In other words, you might need an electrolyte powder if you’re running a marathon, but “most of us don’t need an electrolyte drink to get through the day,” he says. “If you want to use the powders, you can, but they aren’t necessary unless you are directed by a doctor to do so.”
What are the benefits of electrolytes?
The primary benefits of electrolyte powders lie in convenience, says Scheinman. Pop one into your water bottle and you’re good to go. They’re ideal when you need an easy way to replenish electrolytes quickly, like when you’re recovering from the flu or dealing with winter sluggishness.
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