Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only, and it hasn’t been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle change.
Does anyone call those rainbow-colored sports drinks by their actual flavor? I’m pretty sure if you called these two flavors “fruit punch” and “glacier freeze” (instead of “red” and “light blue”), people would look at you like were insane!
We’ve all enjoyed a refreshing sports drink in our day. We’re told that the electrolytes in the sports drinks replenish the electrolytes we lose from sweating during a workout or spending time outside on a hot day. We’re told these drinks are good for us. At the very least, they’re much better than downing a sugary soda and at best they’re giving us vital electrolytes we need to function, right??
Hmm… Let’s talk more about the function of sports drinks.
Sports drinks are recommended to people who are sweating a lot, either from a long, intense workout or maybe while doing yard work all day in the summer sun. Among other things, these drinks contain electrolytes and sugar. The electrolytes and the energy from the sugar is what sells these beverages to athletes. We lose electrolytes in sweat and urine. So when we are doing activities that make us sweat a lot, it’s important that we replace them with an electrolyte beverage so that we don’t become fatigued or experience muscle cramping. If we develop a severe electrolyte imbalance, this can even manifest as dizziness, irregular heartbeat, digestive issues, or mental status changes.
What are electrolytes and what do they do?
Electrolytes are minerals that play an important role in the functioning of your body. These minerals include magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and bicarbonate. They’re found throughout the body and we couldn’t function without them. They support our bodies in so many ways.
They help us to:
- contract and relax muscles
- maintain proper nerve conduction
- regulate tissue growth
- provide structural and functional support
- support hormone regulation
- and much more!
Our bodies can’t make these minerals on their own. We must take them in through our diet in order to replenish them. Electrolytes are lost through sweating, so in order to prevent an electrolyte imbalance, it makes sense to replenish your body with electrolytes after a vigorous activity.
How can we replenish electrolytes without the use of processed drinks?
While the sports drinks in the supermarket probably mean well, there’s no denying that they often contain some scary ingredients. The most popular brands of sports drinks contain artificial food dyes, artificial flavorings and preservatives.
My philosophy is two-fold when it comes to ingredients lists: 1) if I don’t recognize even one of the ingredients or 2) if my great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized the item as a food; then I walk by it on the shelves and don’t purchase it. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t know what GLYCEROL ESTER OF ROSIN is and I certainly don’t want to be taking in artificial colorings like RED 40 or YELLOW 5. I never knew my great-grandmother, but I do know she was born in the late 1800’s. I seriously doubt she was cooking up RED 40 for her homemade power drinks after a hard day on the farm!
Jokes aside- we want to replenish our electrolytes, but don’t want to take in any chemicals or food dyes that are in many electrolyte drinks. What can we do?
1. Add a pinch of sea salt to your water glass or bottle.
Sound weird? It’s really not!
Unrefined sea salt is chock-full of vital electrolytes! Just a pinch in your glass or bottle of water each day will give you needed electrolyte support and will make your water even more hydrating and absorbable.
Your water shouldn’t taste too salty tasting with just a pinch, though you may taste it a little bit. A squeeze of lemon or lime could mask the saltiness if you find it unpalatable.
Just make sure when purchasing sea salt that the package states “unrefined.” Also, the sea salt you buy should be either gray, pink or tan in color (or a combination). The reason is because when natural sea salt is refined, it’s bleached and stripped of its mineral content. White salt has been refined.
Just a pinch of sea salt to your glass of water is great for your day-to-day life, but if you’re someone who is doing vigorous exercise and you like to have a beverage with some glucose in it for energy, see the next suggestions.
2. Make your own electrolyte beverage.
This recipe by Coconuts and Kettlebells is easy, only 5 ingredients, and is tasty too! It contains sea salt for electrolytes and honey for a quick replenishment of glucose. It also has coconut water which is naturally full of electrolytes.
Homemade Electrolyte Drink by Coconuts and Kettlebells
3. Try drinking switchel.
An unfortunate name for a delicious and healthy beverage. There are several switchel recipes online, but this one by Healthy-ish and Happy doesn’t require any heating on the stove. Just mix the ingredients together and you have a beverage that’s naturally probiotic (from the apple cider vinegar), anti-inflammatory (from the ginger) and contains electrolytes.
Instant Switchel by Healthy-ish and Happy
I hope these “chemical-ade” alternatives leave you hydrated and satisifed!
Stay cool out there and take good care,
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Corie is a functional nutritionist in Asheville, N.C. She specializes in helping her 1:1 clients with digestive discomfort, fertility struggles, skin inflammation, mood imbalances and more. She believes that a nourishing diet can support the body's innate ability to heal. She's a big fan of grass-fed butter and will not shut up about the gut microbiome.