Last updated: August 23, 2021

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The human body is largely composed of water, accounting for more than half of the weight of an adult person. The different fluids in our body are stored in specific areas regulated by minerals such as electrolytes.

We know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. That's why the market offers different types of electrolyte drinks that help boost mineral levels in the blood and the rest of the body.

The offer of such drinks is quite wide and can have different uses and benefits. Here you will find all the information you need to decide between the wide range of options based on your needs and preferences.




The most important facts

  • Electrolytes are mineral salts essential for the body to function. When they are lost through dehydration, it is essential to replenish them adequately. This is achieved through drinkable electrolyte solutions (also called serums), as well as tablets and powders.
  • On the surface, there is no major difference between drinkable electrolytes and tablets. However, the different presentations are often targeted to specific audiences, so you should distinguish which one best suits your needs and interests.
  • Each electrolyte offering has particular characteristics that may change the way you consume the product. When making your purchase, consider the frequency of consumption, the age of the user, whether the electrolytes are natural or commercial, and the taste.

The best electrolytes: Our picks

Buying Guide

Electrolytes are everyday products that can be found in many different forms. To help you make the best decision when purchasing your hydration supplement, we have prepared a guide to what you should know about this type of product.

Electrolyte intake should be moderate to avoid liver and kidney problems. (Photo: GSquare / Pixabay)

What is an electrolyte and what are its benefits?

Electrolytes are minerals that hold electrical energy and travel through the different fluids that make up the human body, such as blood. Their function is to regulate some important activities in the body, such as muscle activity, acidity in the body (pH) among others.

The loss of electrolytes is mainly due to dehydration, which is caused by sunstroke or physical activity, as well as vomiting and diarrhoea. To replace lost minerals, oral electrolytes, colloquially known as serums, are recommended.

The ingestion of electrolyte products offers advantages such as rapid mineral recovery and rehydration, which allows their use for medical and sports purposes. However, excessive consumption can cause damage to health.

Advantages
  • They help mineral recovery
  • They can be found in any pharmacy
  • They do not require a prescription
  • They are usually inexpensive
Disadvantages
  • Excessive consumption leads to various ailments
  • They should only be consumed in cases of dehydration
  • They can destabilise the salt levels in the body

Liquid electrolytes or tablets - what should you pay attention to?

Marketing studies often reveal public preferences in terms of product presentation. Electrolytes are often offered in two main forms (but not the only two). Learn about some of the characteristics of each presentation.

Liquids. Electrolyte drinks are a must-have supplement for anyone who needs to treat dehydration. Some lean towards the sports sector while others focus on medicinal use, such as those treating illnesses in children and infants.

Tablets. These are usually found in pharmacies and specialised food supplement shops. They often have athlete-friendly features such as caffeine and calorie reduction. Tablets are sold in numerous presentations that allow for daily use.

Liquids Tablets
Route of administration Oral Dissolved in water
Target audience Various Athletes
Calorie content Low Nil
Restrictions on use None Depending on content

Why are electrolytes lost?

Electrolyte solutions, also called serums, support the minerals needed for the body to function properly. It is important to be aware of the scenarios in which these salts are lost so that they can be adequately replenished.

Fluid loss. Our body is capable of eliminating substances it does not need by different means. However, when these processes are disturbed, an electrolyte imbalance can also occur. The most common cases are sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea and high fever.

Malabsorption. This concept encompasses various stomach, endocrine or hormonal disorders that impair mineral absorption. Some medications also cause these alterations in the body.

Lack of vitamins. In some cases, isotonic drinks are recommended instead of serums, as the loss of salts may in turn be the result of a vitamin imbalance. Remember that any medical treatment must be accompanied by an appropriate diet.

Are electrolytes and isotonic drinks the same thing?

In the collective imagination, salt solutions and isotonic drinks are often lumped together. Generally, people cannot differentiate between oral electrolytes and sports energy drinks.

Although both serve the purpose of replenishing minerals in the body and hydrating after physical exertion, the difference is simple and pointed; unlike electrolytes, isotonic drinks contain additional substances such as carbohydrates or vitamins.

This means that products such as Gatorade or Powerade, which are popular with athletes, provide essential elements to increase physical performance. It is therefore important to consume these products only during exercise to avoid short and medium-term damage to the liver and kidneys.

What are essential electrolytes?

Adequate hydration can result in a correct balance of these salts. Below, we briefly tell you about some of the most important electrolytes so that you know what benefits you get from them and identify them in your favourite serums or tablets.

Sodium. Easily found in cooking salt, sodium is responsible for strengthening cellular functions and nerve synapses. It is also essential in the distribution of body fluids, attracting and retaining water concentrations.

Chlorine. It works in conjunction with the previous mineral. It is responsible for supporting certain liver functions, as well as bone maintenance. It creates, together with sodium, the gastric juices, balancing its acid and alkaline composition.

Potassium. Auxiliary in the electrical functions of all the cells of the body, especially in muscle and nerve cells (this is why it is said to be good for preventing cramps). Adequate potassium intake is also evident in heart functions.

Calcium. One of the most concentrated minerals in our body. In addition to the well-known functions in bones and teeth, calcium helps in muscle contraction, blood clotting, hormone release and the control of enzyme activity.

Magnesium. Similar to the above, magnesium is responsible for supporting muscle and enzyme functions, which in turn control the functioning of our metabolism. Hyperexcitability of muscles often leads to variations in the levels of this mineral.

Functions Imbalances
Sodium Fluid distribution, nerve synapses Hypernatremia, hyponatremia
Chlorine Presence in liver and bones, gastric juices Hyperchloremia, hypochloremia
Potassium Auxiliary in electrical and heart functions Hyperkalemia, hypokalemia
Calcium Strengthening of bones and teeth, enzyme control, coagulation Hypercalcemia, hypocalcemia
Magnesium Enzyme control, auxiliary in muscle functions Hypermagnesemia, hypomagnesemia

Vida Suero Oral: electrolytes for children

In Mexico, the National Health System distributes, free of charge, powdered presentations of electrolytes for infants and children called Vida Suero Oral. It is recommended for use in boiled water (5 minutes) in cases of gastrointestinal illnesses and heat stroke.

This formula has been used since 1971 under the endorsement of the World Health Organization

This formula has been used since 1971 under the endorsement of the World Health Organization. It contains sodium, potassium, chlorine, citrate and glucose, all essential minerals to combat dehydration and diarrhoea in infants. It is available free of charge from institutions such as IMSS and ISSSTE.

Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate different electrolyte models

The use of electrolytes to replenish mineral loss and eradicate dehydration has some nuances to pay attention to. The next time you are faced with similar products and don't know which one to choose, consider the following criteria:

  • Frequency of consumption
  • Age of consumer
  • Natural electrolytes
  • Flavour

Frequency of consumption

It may seem simple, but sometimes promotions tempt us and we end up buying more products than we need. To make a smart purchase, ask yourself how long you will need the product. This will help you choose between different offers.

Occasional. If you need to treat a common case of diarrhoea or dehydration from a night out, you may not need more than three drinkable electrolytes. In either case, it's always good to supplement recovery with other natural alternatives.

Frequent. This case applies to people who are involved in high-performance physical activity or who are more severely dehydrated. Tablet supplements are often sold to the public in 10, 20 or 30 capsules, which will keep you supplied with electrolytes for quite a while. But remember: everything in moderation!

Age of the user

Age is often the first market segmentation criterion when launching a product. Each generational block has different wants and needs when consuming products, so it is important to consider who will be consuming the electrolytes.

Infants and children under 6 years old. Some electrolytes and solutions are specifically aimed at the youngest members of the household, as they contain specific elements that protect their bodies and prevent serious problems. In addition, the flavours are often more accessible to children's palates.

Children over 6 years old and adolescents. For this sector, it is advisable to consume specific products in common rehydration, as supplements for athletes usually contain ingredients that are not recommended for children, such as caffeine.

Adults. Provided there are no specific restrictions, any adult can consume electrolytes in their many forms. Circumstances will determine whether you need to replenish minerals while getting an energy supplement or whether you are simply dehydrated.

Natural electrolytes

Up to this point we have only mentioned commercial or chemical solutions. However, if you want to obtain minerals naturally and with first-hand ingredients, here are some effective and expertly recommended options.

Coconut water. Because of its diverse natural components, coconut water is one of the natural moisturisers par excellence. Ideal for drinking after a night out or a workout in the sun, coconut water contains all five essential minerals, as well as being low in calories and sugars.

Lime and lemon water. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals. A glass of lime and lemon water, combined with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of honey, promises to replenish the body while cooling the throat and stomach.

Strawberry coconut water. If the taste of coconut water is too strong for you, you can always try adding a splash of strawberry juice. As with the previous recipe, a spoonful of honey and a pinch of salt should be added to the drink to get the desired benefits.

Flavour

Electrolyte consumption may be unpalatable to sensitive palates.

Last but not least. The consumption of electrolytes can be unpleasant for sensitive palates. Many people associate their taste with the syrups of childhood. Make sure you find one that makes the experience more pleasant and that, over time, does not become synonymous with unpleasantness.

Most electrolyte supplements, both tablets and drinkables, often include unconventional flavours in their product line. With flavours ranging from apple and coconut to wild berries and fruit water, you can choose how you want to replenish the minerals in your body.

(Featured image photo: rawpixel.com / Pexels)

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