Powering Up With Electrolytes
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that provide power sources for the body. The power of electrolytes includes, regulating the fluid level of the body, balancing the pH (acid/alkaline), aiding muscle function including the heart, help in blood clotting, help to build new cells, as well as act as a transmitter for nerve impulses and regulating body temperature.
The importance of electrolytes has been verified by the medical community. IV drips which have become so important in restorative treatments are often infused with electrolytes to treat specific maladies. The consumption of electrolytes is a prescriptive protocol when suffering from vomiting or diarrhea. These two digestive related issues cause the rapid depletion of fluid and the body’s electrolytes.
Although medical researchers know that the body needs a balance of electrolytes for many functions, the research continues. Sports medicine is particularly interested in powering up with electrolytes before during and after workouts and sporting events. The rapid depletion of body fluid during these times also drains the electrolytes from the body.
The Pros and Cons of Electrolyte Replacement Sources
Athletes in commercials hold up bottles of flavored sports drinks, and say, “full of essential electrolytes.” What do they mean? Essential electrolytes include sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium. These vital minerals are consumed through foods and liquids throughout the day. In a balanced diet with proper hydration necessary electrolytes are ingested.
The commercial for the flavored sports drink featuring the athlete is right, electrolytes are essential and depleted during strenuous activities. The sports drink that is being endorsed may or may not contain all of the essential electrolytes. Now that the message of restoring electrolytes during workouts and sporting activities has been highlighted for years by the leading sports drink brand, many more “sports” drinks have joined the battle to capture market share.
Each has developed their own formulation but like the leading brand they are sold in plastic bottles that leak harmful chemicals into the drink. As the message about the danger of plastic bottles begins to take center stage, sports drinks manufacturers are responding by changing the bottle formulations. Up until the dangers associated with plastic bottles began to be in focus, they all contained chemicals that leeched into the contents. BPA (bisphenol A) is recognized as a major source of carcinogens in plastic sports drink bottles.
Essential Minerals and Non-Essential Ingredients
Getting beyond the container, the drink inside, although it does contain electrolytes also contains non-essential ingredients. The number one sold sports drink lists water as its main ingredient which means that it is the majority of the product. Number 2 on the list is sugar, making it the second most prevalent ingredient in the drink. The ingredient list continues with dextrose, citric acid, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, glycerol ester of rosin along with flavorings.
The list of ingredients begs the question are sports drinks which tout powering up with electrolytes doing that or are they providing a sugar boost. When thinking about hydration and electrolyte replacement consider the source. Electrolyte replacement drinks should provide the 5 key electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride. As a healthy addition they should also offer 100% of the RDA of essential vitamins including C, B1, B6, B12, Zinc. An electrolyte replacement drink should also contain only organic or natural sweeteners and not sugar as a main ingredient.
There is no doubt that powering up with electrolytes is beneficial before, during and after physical activity. A balanced electrolyte drink is essential in recovering from and restoring a healthy balance when sick or battling chronic diseases. The key is to not counteract the benefits of electrolyte replacement with chemicals leeched from BPA and other plastic components and blunting the valuable effects of electrified minerals with sugar and unnatural ingredients.