Electrolytes are essential for the human body to function. These minerals regulate everything from blood pressure to pH levels to the fluid levels in your body. They also play a key role in contracting muscles, transmitting signals to nerves, building new tissue, and blood clotting.
When we sweat — either during strenuous labor on the job, exercise, or heat waves — we lose electrolytes. When you don’t have the right amount and ratio of electrolytes and fluids in your body, you can suffer from dehydration. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps and worse. Therefore, electrolyte replacement is essential.
Research shows electrolytes are useful when it comes to treating or preventing the symptoms of dehydration. However, not all electrolyte drinks are the same. Here, we’ll go over electrolytes, the best electrolyte drink, and the drawbacks associated with the alternatives.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that are essential for normal body processes. Some of the most common electrolytes include sodium, calcium, and potassium. Bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate are also electrolytes. These minerals are found throughout the human body, including in blood, urine, and sweat. Sugars like glucose and fructose can help the body absorb these minerals more easily via the sodium-glucose cotransport system.
When mixed with water, electrolytes conduct electricity. This enables them to transmit electrical impulses to nerves and tissue. For example, when your muscle contracts, it’s using electrolytes like sodium and potassium to do so. When there’s an imbalance of electrolytes, you may experience symptoms like muscle cramping.
There are many causes of electrolyte imbalances. Some medical conditions including kidney disease, thyroid disorders, gastro-intestinal conditions, and certain types of cancer may cause electrolyte imbalances. Some medications such as water pills and osteoporosis drugs may also increase the risk of electrolyte imbalances. Certain diets such as the low-carb keto diet and sugar-free diets can also increase the risk of developing an electrolyte imbalance.
When medications and medical ailments aren’t the culprits, the main drivers of electrolyte imbalances are excessive sweating and sickness. If you have a cold or flu, vomiting and diarrhea can lead to a loss of electrolytes. Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can also deplete electrolytes in the body due to dehydration. Working outside in the heat can increase the risk of an electrolyte imbalance.
To help prevent or treat symptoms of dehydration, your body needs electrolytes, not just water. The best electrolyte drinks for dehydration are oral rehydration solutions (ORS). Read on to learn more about these drinks and why sports drinks and fruit juices like orange juice aren’t as effective.
The Best Electrolyte Drink: ORS
Oral rehydration solutions are fluids that contain a precise ratio of electrolytes and glucose to replenish fluid balance in the body. These drinks are on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and are particularly common in the treatment of diarrheal diseases. In fact, one study found that ORS reduced mortality from diarrhea by 93%.
Drinking ORS is also far less invasive than IV therapy. For an IV, a nurse has to inject a needle to deliver the electrolyte solution into a vein. With an ORS, people who have an electrolyte imbalance can simply drink the beverage to replenish fluid balance.
Not all ORS drinks are created equal. In fact, the main complaint about electrolyte drinks made using the WHO formula is that they taste bad. That’s because high electrolyte levels, particularly sodium, can impart an unpleasant flavor. But, because the high sodium is essential, you need a drink mix that keeps the sodium content but balances it out with other healthy, natural flavors.
DripDrop ORS solves the taste problem with its patented formula. DripDrop ORS contains a precise ratio of sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and zinc along with sugars to accelerate fluid absorption. The sugars in DripDrop ORS include the natural sugars sucrose, fructose, dextrose, and small amounts of sucralose — a modified form of table sugar that’s approved by the FDA and WHO. It’s also gluten-free and kosher.
The electrolyte mix is made with all-natural colors including beta carotene, which is responsible for the bright red, orange, and yellow hues of fruits and veggies. In fact, beta carotene is found in some of the most vibrantly colored foods including carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots. You can choose from different ORS flavors like watermelon, berry, lemon, and orange. Alternatively, you can opt for hot DripDrop ORS drinks like the honey lemon ginger and spiced apple cider.
DripDrop ORS is easy to use. The electrolyte solution comes in powder sticks that you just add to water. Pour the electrolyte powder into your water bottle and enjoy electrolyte replenishment at the office or out in the backcountry. For hot days, you can even freeze the ORS electrolyte water into popsicles to help replenish electrolytes and stay cool in the heat. And on cold days, you can add DripDrop ORS hot flavors to a mug of hot water.
Other Drinks and Their Potential Drawbacks
Tap water, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juices are common top picks to replenish fluids and electrolytes, but these aren’t as effective as oral rehydration solutions.
While drinking water may help to restore fluid in your body, it’s not a good replenisher of vitamins and minerals. Water doesn’t contain many electrolytes or vitamins, making it an ineffective choice for replenishing electrolytes. All this means regular water won't hydrate the body as efficiently as a drink with electrolytes.
Sports drinks — like Gatorade and Powerade — and juices are often packed with added sugar and artificial ingredients like artificial flavors and artificial colors. Too much sugar raises the osmolarity of a solution and makes it harder to absorb in the gut.
On the other hand, drinks with no sugar or zero-calorie artificial sweeteners make it harder for your body to absorb the sodium and other essential nutrients. While these artificial lemon-lime and raspberry flavored drinks claim to provide good sports nutrition, they actually tend to contain far too little sodium.
Another popular electrolyte drink is coconut water. The purported benefits of coconut water are everywhere. Unfortunately, many of those articles overstate the efficacy of coconut water when it comes to electrolyte balance and muscle recovery.
While coconut water contains large amounts of potassium and some other trace minerals, it doesn’t have much sodium. Both sodium and glucose play a key role in what’s called the sodium-glucose cotransport system. In this system, special proteins absorb glucose and sodium into the bloodstream, drawing in water along with them. To activate this process, the body needs both sodium and glucose. Since coconut water doesn’t contain much sodium, it’s not as effective as ORS for relieving dehydration.
Choose the Best Electrolyte Drink: DripDrop ORS
Whether you’re an endurance athlete looking for something to drink post-workout or a service officer trying to replenish electrolyte levels and fluid imbalance caused by dehydration in the field, DripDrop ORS is the best choice. It’s the go-to choice for wildland firefighters, military soldiers, and athletes across the globe.
Thinking about trying an ORS, but not sure you’re ready to commit? Sign up for our convenient trial to get a taste of dehydration relief. When you discover the great taste of DripDrop ORS and decide to make it part of your dehydration prevention and treatment protocols, you can join our Subscribe & Save subscription program for flexibility and value.