Ask An Expert·2 min read

What's Better for Hydration: Plain Water or Electrolyte Drinks and Powders?

Dear Expert,

Are electrolyte drinks and powders better than plain water for hydration?

Dear Anonymous,

There's no harm in having electrolyte drinks. But are they necessary? Not all the time. 

Being hydrated requires a combination of fluid and electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals — for example, sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium — that help with fluid balance, nerve function and muscle contractions. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, low energy, headaches, dryness in the mouth, throat, skin, and eyes, dizziness, and impaired cognition.

Electrolyte drinks and powders can be beneficial for an active person who's losing a significant amount of fluid through sweat. That could be from an intense workout or being in a really hot, humid area. They can also be helpful for people who are sick and fighting off infection because when you’re sick you’re prone to dehydration. Hydration needs can change at different parts of the year or in different seasons of life. Do you have a really physical job? Are you working out or are you outside a lot? 

If you’re not sick or sweating much, plain water is fine. You're also getting electrolytes through food. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products all have electrolytes in them. When you salt your food, you’re also getting that sodium. We also get hydrating fluids through different types of milk, juices, coconut water, and teas. 

Featured Expert

Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill - Jordan Hill, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Top Nutrition Coaching

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