Electrolyte enhanced water is water that has electrically charged minerals, or electrolytes, added to it.
The most common electrolytes found in the body are sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate.
Proper hydration involves drinking enough water daily, along with maintaining a balance of electrolytes in the body.
According to the National Institutes of Health, electrolyte balance is critical for normal muscle and nerve function, as well as for maintaining the health of cells and organs.
In addition, electrolytes help to regulate fluid levels and the acid-alkaline balance in the body, both of which are essential to health and fitness.
Your body may lose electrolytes after a flu or illness involving excessive diarrhea or vomiting. This is the reason why if you’ve had the flu your doctor may recommend drinking a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade, which contain added electrolytes.
You can also lose too many electrolytes from excessive sweating and/or physical activity.
However, drinking plenty of filtered tap water (which contains minerals) will normally suffice to replenish electrolytes when exercising for less than an hour.
For high-intensity workouts or endurance-type activities lasting more than an hour, I recommend replenishing electrolytes both during and after exercise.
Also, exercising in hot temperatures can cause lower levels of electrolytes.
For more detailed information, see Proper Hydration Basics for Sports and Fitness.
Even though most commercial sports drinks do contain added electrolytes, the big problem with them, from a nutritionist point of view, is that most of them also contain a ton of sugar and are highly acidifying in the body.
Sugar and acidic fluids are not going to help much if you are trying to recover from an illness. Neither will they improve sports performance or recovery.
Other products using terms such as "smart water" or "vitamin water" on their labels are considered electrolyte enhanced waters, but as far as I am concerned they are basically expensive sugar waters with a bit of salt added.
Then there’s the cost of commercial sports drinks and electrolyte enhanced waters. Considering this is a billion-dollar industry, I encourage you to take the time to really evaluate what you are drinking.
Most brands of sports drinks and enhanced waters cost $1 to $3 per quart bottle.
I guess some folks will continue to pay that for the sake of convenience. However, you can make your own electrolyte enhanced water in minutes for a few pennies. See recipe below.
In addition to the bottled electrolyte drinks, there are high-quality products available for professional athletes that come in the form of gels, tablets, and drops that can be added to filtered water before, during, and after workouts or events.
Some quality brands of electrolyte products include:
Serious endurance athletes, skiiers, snowboarders, and hikers may also want to consider a Camelbak Hydration Pak.
The following is a simple homemade electrolyte drink if you simply want to replenish electrolytes after an illness or strenuous physical activity lasting more than an hour, such as hiking, skiing, or working out at the gym.
This homemade version is less expensive than store-bought versions, is greener (no plastic bottles), and is healthier, too.
Further reading . . .