What to look for: natural sources of electrolytes like bananas & coconut water
What to stay away from: sports drinks all together unless intensely exercising
Sports drinks are intended to maintain hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise. Electrolytes are maintained in body fluids and needed for nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are lost through heavy sweat and must be replaced to keep the concentrations in your body fluids constant. But, buyer beware. On average, sport drinks contain 20 grams of sugar in one 12 oz. serving. That’s over 13 teaspoons of sugar in the average 32 ounce sport drink bottle. All of the added calories from sugar can seriously interfere with weight loss/maintenance efforts in addition to sending blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride of peaks and valleys. Therefore, it is important to know when sports drinks are appropriate and useful and when they are not necessary.
Sport drinks are ideally used by athletes engaged in high‐intensity workouts lasting 60 minutes or more. They are not recommended for routine consumption. However, factors such as duration of exercise and weather conditions can affect the need for an athlete to supplement carbohydrate and electrolyte loss with a sport drink. It is especially important to be mindful of electrolyte loss when exercising in high temperatures.
Most people exercising at a moderate-vigorous rate can stay hydrated and energized by eating a healthy meal or snack and drinking enough water prior to and during their workout. Check out the list below of electrolytes and common food sources for each.
Potassium-bananas, kiwis, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes
Magnesium- green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nut butters, pumpkin
Calcium- milk, yogurt, black eyed peas
Chloride- olives, tomatoes, celery
Sodium- The typical American diet is quite high in sodium, so dietary need to supplement is rare. However, nut butters are a healthy source of sodium if needed.