The benefits and potential risks of electrolyte enhanced water

October 8, 2023 (Last Updated: October 6, 2023)
Electrolytes water

Whether you are sitting at a desk all day or sweating in the gym, your body loses 2-3 liters of water regardless. To prevent dehydration, water is crucial for maintaining good health.

There has been a growing trend of adding electrolytes to water to enhance its hydration benefits. While electrolyte-infused water has gained popularity, it’s essential to understand both the advantages and potential risks associated with its consumption.

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that play a crucial role in various bodily functions.

The primary electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, and phosphate. These minerals are essential for maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve function, muscle contractions, and overall cellular health.

Electrolytes may help improve physical performance during exercise or help rehydrate you when you’re sick, among other benefits. Naturally, water contains electrolytes – unless it is labeled as ‘distilled’. So what happens when water is enhanced with more electrolytes?

The benefits of taking extra electrolytes in your water

Hydration

Electrolytes help your body absorb and retain water more effectively. They facilitate the transport of fluids and nutrients across cell membranes, aiding in rapid rehydration during exercise or after sweating.

You should be rehydrating your body with electrolytes in water if:

  • You’re exercising for more than one hour.
  • You sweat heavily during exercise.
  • You’re ill with vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • You are exposed to heat for longer periods.

Improved athletic performance

Athletes often turn to electrolyte-infused beverages to replace the minerals lost through sweat during intense workouts. Maintaining proper electrolyte balance can enhance endurance, reduce muscle cramps, and improve overall performance.

Enhanced recovery

After strenuous physical activity or illness, replenishing lost electrolytes can speed up recovery by restoring optimal bodily functions.

Prevention of heat-related illnesses

In hot weather, excessive sweating can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Electrolyte-enhanced water can help mitigate the risk by preventing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Balanced electrolyte levels

Some individuals, such as those with specific medical conditions, may benefit from electrolyte supplementation to maintain stable electrolyte levels.

The potential risks

Excessive intake

While electrolytes are essential, consuming excessive amounts can lead to imbalances, causing health issues. Overconsumption of sodium, in particular, can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

Added sugar

Many commercially available electrolyte-enhanced beverages contain added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and other health concerns when consumed in excess.

Kidney problems

Individuals with pre-existing kidney issues should be cautious with electrolyte supplementation, as excessive electrolyte intake can strain the kidneys and worsen their condition.

Gastrointestinal upset

Some people may experience digestive discomfort, including diarrhea or bloating, when consuming large quantities of electrolyte-infused water.

Those who need to exercise caution with added electrolytes

Individuals with kidney problems

People with kidney diseases or kidney-related issues should consult their healthcare provider before adding electrolyte supplements to their diet, as it may worsen their condition.

Diabetics

There is a high percentage of electrolytes in sports/ energy drinks, meaning – they are high in sugar. This could be dangerous for those living with diabetes.

Those on restricted diets

People on low-sodium or low-potassium diets should be mindful of the electrolyte content in beverages and choose options that align with their dietary restrictions.

Children

Children have different electrolyte needs compared to adults and should avoid consuming electrolyte supplements without proper guidance from a healthcare professional.

Individuals with hypertension

Those with high blood pressure or hypertension should limit their sodium intake, making it essential to choose low-sodium electrolyte options.

Always consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist to determine the appropriate electrolyte intake that suits your individual needs, and always read product labels to ensure you are making informed choices when it comes to electrolyte-enhanced beverages.

Proper hydration is essential for good health, but balance and moderation are key.

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Written by Amy Steenkamp for Woman&Home.

Feature image: Pexels

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