Diary / Wellness / Nov 28, 2022
Are Electrolytes Actually Game-Changers for Hydration?
Written by: Michele Ross
Some of us know that we need to drink more water, while others may stay on top of their H2O game only to feel as though their thirst has yet to be fully quenched. Whether you fall into either camp or somewhere else on the hydrating spectrum—and especially if you’re an athlete, sweat profusely, or follow an active lifestyle otherwise—there’s a pretty good chance that electrolytes can take your hydration status to the next level.
But are electrolytes—whether in supplement form or via natural dietary sources—totally necessary to boost hydration and performance? In search of answers, we caught up with Dana Cohen, MD, an integrative doctor and Cure medical advisor.
Can plain H2O be enough to maintain optimal hydration?
Dr. Cohen begins by saying that while regular water may be adequate for some, there are better and more effective ways of hydrating. “Many people experience the challenge of drinking more and more plain water, but no matter how much they drink, they cannot quench their thirst,” she says. However, she shares a quick and easy natural remedy to put this issue to rest.
“These people notice when they add a pinch of real salt and a squeeze of lemon to their morning water, they feel more hydrated and are finally able to quench their thirst. That's because the minerals in the salt and lemon help absorb and hold onto the consumed water better,” Dr. Cohen explains. Speaking of hydrating heroes…
What are electrolytes and how can they boost hydration?
“Electrolytes are substances that carry an electrical charge when dissolved in water,” says Dr. Cohen. “We need electrolytes to maintain optimal fluid balance in and out of our cells, and as such they improve our ability to stay hydrated.” You’ll find them in the form of:
- - Sodium
- - Potassium
- - Chloride
- - Phosphorus
- - Calcium
- - Magnesium
While you can find these substances in electrolyte-infused drinks and supplements, they’re also naturally occurring in a range of healthy foods. Fortunately, some of them may already be staples in your dietary rotation. “Avocado is a great source of potassium, and so are bananas,” she continues. In addition, select fruits and veggies will contain sodium and chloride.
What does the latest research say about electrolyte supplementation?
While Dr. Cohen states that research is lacking on the benefits of electrolyte replacement in everyday life, she’s witnessed their benefits firsthand. "As a clinician I have seen the prudent use of electrolyte replacement. For example, one electrolyte drink a day helps with energy and vitality in many patients,” she shares. Moreover, if you sweat often or are highly active, Dr. Cohen says that electrolytes should definitely be included in your wellness regimen. “As far as using electrolyte replacement with exercise and especially in high heat, it is often a necessity—especially with endurance training and people who sweat excessively,” she shares. “We lose water and minerals when we sweat, and it is a good idea to replace those minerals along with the water.” She adds that munching on hydrating foods—think watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, etc.—is another wonderful way to improve your hydration status.
Are electrolytes a nice-to-have or a necessity?
“Electrolytes are definitely a necessity in athletes and those doing endurance training. They are also essential for those who do hot yoga or who sweat excessively generally,” Dr. Cohen summarizes.
For others, they have the potential to boost your hydration, but the physician says that they’re not as critical to prioritize. With that said, if you struggle to sip on enough H2O daily and flavored electrolyte packets (ideally low- or no-sugar options, such as Cure’s) will encourage you to do so, then they very well could be worth stocking up on.