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Electrolyte Supplements Explained


Have a good workout? That drink could help replace your electrolytes, electrically-charged minerals needed for a number of functions in the body.
Have a good workout? That drink could help replace your electrolytes, electrically-charged minerals needed for a number of functions in the body.
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You've probably seen the commercials, the ones with people sweating colored water. What product could they be selling with colored sweat?

From sports drinks to high-tech powder mixes, supplements on the market are targeted to athletes needing to rejuvenate. Let's take a look at these electrolyte supplements.

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But first, what are electrolytes? In simple terms, an electrolyte is a mineral that carries an electrical charge. In the human body, electrolytes are responsible for proper muscle function, ideal water balance and other really important processes [source: MedLine Plus].

If electrolytes are so important, how do you lose them? Primarily through sweating. This is why it's necessary for athletes of any skill level to make sure they have proper hydration that includes restoring lost electrolytes [source: MedLine Plus]. Though necessary, water alone won't cut it.

During physical exercise, a person's metabolism rate increases five to 15 times the body's resting rate, creating a lot of energy. Most of the energy is released as heat, which then triggers the body's cooling mechanism, perspiration [source: Sawka].

For those consuming a normal diet, electrolyte supplementation isn't necessary. But if you exercise or work in a hot environment, extra electrolytes are essential [source: Sawka]. Also, for people suffering diarrhea or vomiting, electrolyte supplements can help a person get better sooner.

Electrolyte supplements come in different forms, some more common than others, and even by prescription in extreme cases [source: Farlex].

Think back to those commercials on TV; they're selling a popular brand of sports drink. By far, sports drinks are the most common form of electrolyte supplement, found readily in supermarkets.

Some performance athletes prefer electrolyte supplements that come in capsule or powdered form, which allows them to control the supplement-to-water ratio, unlike premixed sports drinks [source: Farlex].

On the next page, we'll look at some of the most important electrolytes commonly found in these supplements.


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