Studies suggest that even mild dehydration - a water loss of 1 to 2% - may affect how well our brains function.* Dehydration can also cause cramping, especially for those participating in sports like tennis, soccer, and cycling.
For most of us, the best way to hydrate is with water. Eating regular meals also helps support hydration through the consumption of electrolytes like sodium, chloride, and potassium in our food.
That said, hydrating with drinks that contain electrolytes may be helpful for some people. For instance exercisers who experience heavy sweating, especially those participating in high intensity activities in hot weather, may benefit from a drink that include electrolytes.
Some people may be concerned about sports drinks that contain artificial coloring and added sugar. Luckily, you can also make a hydrating electrolyte drink from home - check out the recipe below.
Homemade Electrolyte Drink
provides 80 mg sodium and 60 mg potassium per cup
*A loss of 2% body weight is 3 pounds for a 150-pound person.
If you are exercising for longer than an hour at a high intensity, you may benefit from commercial sports drinks - they contain a specialized ratio of electrolytes, plus added carbohydrates to help with proper fueling. Also, if you have a medical condition, like kidney disease or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor or dietitian before making any significant changes to your beverage intake.
Huang WC, Tung YT, Wu MS, et al. Low-Osmolality Carbohydrate–Electrolyte Solution Ingestion Avoid Fluid Loss and Oxidative Stress after Exhaustive Endurance Exercise. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020; 9(4):336.
Riebl SK and BM Dav. The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. The American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal. 2013; 17(6): 21–28.
Sawka MN, Burke LM, and Eichner R, et al. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2007; 39(2):377-390
By Courtney Cayer, MGH Dietetic Intern