Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. They are present in tissue, blood, and other bodily fluids and are critical for nerve and muscle function, blood pressure regulation, and hydration. Some drinks are naturally rich in electrolytes, while others undergo special formulation to provide electrolytes.
The term electrolyte refers to the fact that electrolytes are substances with an electrical charge. Many bodily functions rely on a small electric current, which electrolytes provide.
Most people can maintain a healthy electrolyte balance with a diet of food and drinks rich in electrolytes. Other people, such as high-performing athletes and people who are ill and dehydrated, may need a boost. Many beverages, including drinks that people can make at home, are rich in electrolytes.
In this article, we will discuss what electrolytes are, list beverages high in electrolytes, and suggest recipes for electrolyte-rich drinks that people can prepare at home.
These minerals are important for many bodily functions, such as keeping the body hydrated, controlling the body’s nervous system, and balancing the body’s acidic and basic (pH) levels.
Some beverages are natural sources of electrolytes, while others are electrolyte-infused drinks. The following are six common drinks high in electrolytes:
Cow’s milk is naturally rich in electrolytes, including calcium, sodium, and potassium.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS)
- 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 92.7 mg of sodium
- 366 mg of potassium
Additionally, cow’s milk is a good source of macronutrients. For people who exercise vigorously, this combination of electrolytes and macronutrients makes cow’s milk an easy post-workout electrolyte drink.
But cow’s milk may not be a suitable beverage for all people. For example, regular cow’s milk is not typically an option for people with lactose intolerance. A lactose-free version may be a better option.
Likewise, no animal-derived milk (cow or otherwise) is an option for people who follow a vegan diet. There are plenty of dairy alternatives available such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk. But some research suggests that not only do plant-based milks fail to provide comparable levels of vitamins and minerals, but the vitamins and minerals are absorbed less easily than those present in cow’s milk too.
Anyone following a vegan diet who is looking for a post-workout beverage, or any beverage to help replace the electrolytes lost from excessive and prolonged sweating, may find other types of electrolyte drinks more beneficial than plant-based milks.
Fruit juices such as orange juice, cherry juice, and watermelon juice are all good sources of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. According to the FNDDS, the average school container (124 grams) of 100% orange juice
- 13.6 mg of magnesium
- 221 mg of potassium
- 34.7 mg of phosphorus
Additionally, fruit juices can also be a good source of antioxidants and vitamins. But most fruit juices are low in sodium and high in sugar. That same container of orange juice has only 2.48 mg of sodium but 10.3 grams (g) of sugar. So while fruit juices are a good source of electrolytes, they may not be the most suitable beverage to replace sodium lost from sweat.
Coconut water is another source of certain electrolytes, specifically potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. The FNDDS
- 396 mg of potassium
- 16.8 mg of calcium
- 62.4 mg of sodium
- 14.4 mg of magnesium
Nutrient-added water beverages
Generally, nutrient-added water beverages are low-calorie, low-sugar options for electrolyte drinks.
Electrolyte-infused water beverages do not carry the same amounts of sugars and calories as, for example, fruit juices and sports drinks. Depending on the brand, they may even provide a more diverse mix of electrolytes.
If the beverage uses the term “water” on its packaging, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Sports drinks are commonly available electrolyte beverages. While popular, sports drinks have their fair share of pros and cons.
For example, drinking sports drinks are a convenient way for high-endurance athletes to stay hydrated and replenish the electrolytes they lose through sweat. There are sugar-free options, and some may provide energy-boosting benefits.
On the other hand, sports drinks tend to contain more electrolytes than the average person needs. They often contain a lot of sugar (a 360 milliliter serving of a sports drink can include
Overall, commercial electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks may be a good choice for athletes but may not be the most suitable option for the average person.
Oral electrolyte solutions
Oral electrolyte solutions are another type of commercial electrolyte drink. Manufacturers typically formulate these with the optimal balance of electrolytes and sugar to help people recover from dehydration. For example, an 8-ounce serving of a commercial oral electrolyte solution may contain:
- 244 mg of sodium
- 184 mg potassium
- 294 mg of chloride
Anecdotally, people may recommend these types of drinks for replenishing electrolytes in children with diarrhea or vomiting. They are also a suitable option for adults who may also be at risk for dehydration.
There are a variety of ways people can make their own electrolyte drinks at home.
Making an electrolyte drink at home can be as simple as adding an
Fruit or vegetable smoothies are easy and popular ways to replenish electrolytes at home. People can choose fruits and vegetables high in electrolytes, including:
Oral rehydration recipe
People can make their own oral rehydration therapies with basic kitchen staples. For example, people can prepare an oral rehydration solution by mixing the following ingredients:
- 1 liter of water
- 6 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar
- ½ tsp of salt
Most people require the following recommended daily amounts of electrolytes to maintain a healthy balance:
Sodium: Maximum of 2,300 mg.
- Chloride: Roughly the same as sodium because most dietary chloride comes from salt.
Potassium: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 2,600 mg for adult females and 3,400 mg for adult males. Calcium: The NIH suggests 1,000 mg for people aged 19–50 years and males aged 51–70 years, and 1,200 mg for females aged 51 years and older and males aged 71 years and older. Phosphate: Adults aged 19 years and older require 700 mg. Magnesium: The NIH recommends 310 mg for females and 400 mg for males aged 19–30 years, and 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males aged 31 years and older.
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need higher or lower amounts. Their doctor will recommend an appropriate amount.
When the body’s electrolyte levels become too high or too low, it can cause an electrolyte imbalance.
An electrolyte imbalance happens when the amount of water in the body changes. Typically, a body needs to take in as much fluid as it loses. Without that balance, the body may become dehydrated (have too little water) or overhydrated (have too much water).
Several factors can affect a body’s water balance, including:
- excessive sweating
- not eating or drinking enough
- medications including diuretics and laxatives
- vomiting and diarrhea
- kidney or heart problems
- congestive heart failure
Additionally, certain other medical conditions have shown an association with electrolyte imbalance. For example, a 2020 analysis indicates an association between COVID-19 severity and significantly lower levels of sodium, potassium, and calcium.
When a person has an electrolyte imbalance, they may experience a wide range of
It is advisable for a person to see a doctor if they experience severe symptoms such as convulsions, seizures, or rapid blood pressure changes. A doctor can determine whether the person has an electrolyte imbalance or another condition, as well as the appropriate treatment.
By consuming a balanced diet, which includes nutritious foods and drinks, a person can typically supply the body with the necessary minerals to support a healthy electrolyte balance.
This means ensuring that the diet includes fruits and vegetables rich in electrolytes, as well as other healthy sources of essential minerals. It is also important to maintain hydration throughout the day.
People who exercise should pay close attention to their fluid intake. Mild to moderate workouts may only require water, while longer and more intense workouts may call for more robust electrolyte drinks.
People experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting may also want to pay attention to their fluid intake and consider an oral electrolyte solution to avoid dehydration.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance should consider consulting their doctor.
Most people who maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated will not require electrolyte drinks. But they can provide a quick and convenient way for athletes to replenish electrolytes lost from sweat or help people with severe diarrhea or vomiting stay hydrated and maintain their electrolyte balance.
But if a person regularly consumes electrolyte drinks, they may consume more than is necessary, which can have associated risks. For example, this could result in hypernatremia, hyperkalemia, or hypercalcemia. These are when a person has too much sodium, potassium, or calcium in the blood.
Electrolytes are essential minerals that play a key role in a number of bodily functions. Typically, people can get sufficient levels of electrolytes from their diet. But an electrolyte-rich beverage may be beneficial for athletes engaging in intense exercise or people who are ill and at risk for dehydration.
People can make an electrolyte-rich beverage at home by mixing salt, sugar, and water. But people should try to maintain healthy electrolyte levels, as too much or too little can result in an imbalance, which can have associated risks. Anyone who has concerns about their electrolyte level should contact their doctor.