Electrolytes Drinks

By Adam Kantrowitz
Electrolytes drinks

Electrolytes drinks are a common beverage for those with an active lifestyle.

That’s because we know how important it is to stay hydrated, whether we are playing hard, exercising, or working outdoors on hot summer days. But are the more popular electrolyte drinks the best choice?

Let’s compare a number of popular electrolyte beverages to see what they each have to offer.

Popular Electrolyte Sports Drinks

1. Gatorade

You can’t mention sports drinks without Gatorade being a part of the conversation. Celebrated by athletes, this appears to be the drink of champions. So which electrolytes are in Gatorade, and is there enough to make a real difference? 

Gatorade thirst quencher contains 160 mg of sodium and 45 mg of potassium, two electrolytes that are vital for muscles and proper hydration. However, it is missing magnesium, another vital electrolyte that is lost through sweat.

Are there any ingredients in Gatorade that you might not want? Perhaps. For example, each serving contains 14 grams of sugar. That translates into about 50 empty calories.

It also contains artificial flavors and colors that are derived from oils. One type in particular, brominated vegetable oil, has become a hot topic, and the company is scrambling to remove this ingredient from the formula.

2. Powerade

This is Coca-Cola’s answer to Gatorade (which is owned by Pepsi). Does it meet the test of providing the electrolytes your body needs?

Sadly, it falls even shorter than Gatorade, with just 150mg of sodium and 35 of potassium. Again, no magnesium is included in the formula. Powerade adds B vitamins, but those are for energy rather than hydration.

As far as possible ingredients you might not want, Powerade has each of the causes for concern as Gatorade, matching up equally for calorie and sugar content, plus artificial color and flavoring.

Coca-Cola too has promised to change their formula to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a well-known flame retardant.

3. PowerBar Perform

This drink mix comes from Nestle (yes, the company that makes candy bars). You add one scoop to every 8 oz of liquid.

You get 190mg of sodium, making PowerBar the leader in that category. There are only 10mg of potassium, however, and magnesium is once again absent. 

It has 10 grams of sugar per serving, 17 total carbs, and 70 calories. Just be forewarned that some of that sugar is maltodextrin which has a higher glycemic level than any other form of sugar.

In fact, it’s almost double that of ordinary table sugar, which makes it a possible concern for diabetics.

4. Vitaminwater

Like Powerade, this drink is owned by Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, its vitamin and water content are not what will have the biggest impact on your body.

First of all, depending on the flavor, each bottle contains 29-31 grams of sugar. That means they all weigh in with about 120 empty calories.

As far as electrolytes go, these beverages are all sodium free. The only ones that contain potassium are Essential (5% of the RDA) and Revive (25% of RDA, making it the best on our list so far). The Lemonade flavor has magnesium chloride and provides about 40mg of magnesium (10% RDA) making it the only beverage in the list with this ingredient.

The verdict? If you really want vitamin water, you’re better off just getting a glass of water and using it to take a vitamin supplement.

Might A Homemade Electrolyte Drink Work Best?

Here is one of the recipes for an electrolytes solution that contains the following per 32 oz.

  • 90 mg. Sodium

  • 116 mg. Potassium

  • 422 mg. Magnesium

  • A good amount of chloride, a negatively charged electrolyte needed to balance out the positive charges of sodium, potassium and magnesium

  • A host of trace mineral electrolytes that are also displaced through sweat

Homemade sports electrolytes drinks recipe

  • Flavor as desired – lemonade works best

  • Optional - add 1/8 tsp. sea salt (an extra 500 mg. of sodium) for the extra sodium that may be needed by some to help stop muscle cramps caused by heavy sweating

Is this homemade electrolytes drink better?

  • With this homemade sports drink, you get a huge amount of the electrolyte magnesium, needed by the body for energy production.

  • It is economical, costing less than 20 cents per quart before flavoring is added

  • It contains numerous organic electrolyte trace minerals needed by the body 

  • As a possible flavoring, Crystal Light Pure Lemonade has no artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives. It contains 3 grams of sugar with 15 calories, and the rest of its sweetness is provided by Stevia

Testimony of an athlete

I love to work hard and to exercise hard. However, after a hard workout I would always come home with a bad headache which tended to linger till the next day.

I also had a problem with leg cramps after hard workouts. These normally came at night after I went to bed. I would find myself waking up and jumping out of bed, as I tried to work out the cramps. Not a lot of fun.

I tried rehydrating with both Gatorade and Powerade. They did help to minimize the headaches and leg cramps, but didn’t take them away. I sweat a lot when I work out, and drank so much Gatorade to stay hydrated that I could hardly stand the taste any more.

Finally I tried making my own electrolyte drink. I start with 3 quarts of water, then add 1.5 tsp. of Ionic Sea Minerals and ¼ tsp. of sea salt.

By using this amount of water I prefer taking it without any flavoring, and I never get sick of the taste. I have been using this for rehydration for the last 8 years, and it has performed wonderfully.

This is the only electrolyte solution I have found that eliminated my headaches, took care of the cramping and did a whale of a job keeping me hydrated.

Conclusion, electrolytes drinks 

In the end, popular electrolyte drinks fall short at providing what the body genuinely needs to stay hydrated. 

Artificial flavors and colors are well kept secrets by companies who don’t want to share their “proprietary blend”.

Perhaps this is a good time to switch to a natural electrolyte drink that does a great job rehydrating the body without all the unwanted ingredients.

(Return from Electrolytes Drinks to What is an Electrolyte)

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