Electrolytes are minerals that help the body with important tasks such as muscle and nerve functions. As the name suggests, they do this by helping to conduct electricity. But are too many electrolytes bad for your health? An imbalance can cause problems, but these problems are usually rare. So can you cause hypernatremia by drinking a sports drink? In short, no.
But that doesn't mean electrolyte drinks should be consumed recklessly. They are designed to be used when fluid and sodium levels are going to be significantly low (before, during and after intense exercise). Your goal should be, first of all, to prevent sodium overload from occurring. To do this, you must know your personal sweat levels and your sodium loss rate.
That's why it's a good idea to take a sweat test to find out what and how much you need to drink during training and at any of your specific events. You can drink too much water with electrolytes. If this happens, you could experience hyponatremia, which occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is too low. When you're hyponatremic, your body retains water and this dilutes the amount of sodium in your blood.
To ensure you get the right amount of hydration, your daily intake should be around 15.5 cups of mixed fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups of mixed fluids a day for women. Naturally, if you live in a hot climate or exercise in hot climates, you'll sweat more and need to consume more electrolytes. In these cases, it is important to pay attention to the level of thirst and drink accordingly. Drinking too much water without enough electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia, a dangerous condition caused by low levels of sodium in the blood.
For example, high-intensity sports, such as soccer, or endurance exercises, such as marathons, require more electrolyte drinks than low-intensity activities, such as walking or light jogging. Electrolytes can also protect against overhydration, in the same way that water can protect against electrolyte imbalance. Since there are so many options available, and some people are more active than others, you might be wondering how many electrolyte drinks you should drink each day. The most important electrolyte compounds to look for in sports drinks and foods are potassium, sodium, and chloride.
Water balance helps to counteract the negative effects of electrolyte overabundance and to maximize electrolyte effectiveness. Another great option for getting the electrolytes you need are electrolyte pills, which are easy to take and very portable. For example, if you sweat a lot, you may need to drink an electrolyte drink before, during, and after you exercise. When you exercise, especially during endurance training, hydrating yourself with a sports drink or mixing powdered electrolytes with plain water can help you keep your body fluids regulated.
As the founder of Precision Hydration, people often ask me if it's possible to overdose on salt by consuming too many electrolyte drinks. While beverages claim their electrolyte content in advertisements and on labels, their other ingredients may harm more than help. Especially for endurance athletes, consuming electrolytes is important because researchers found that only one percent of the study population consumed the recommended values of all electrolytes. And, as always, make sure you drink enough water throughout the day along with your electrolyte drinks.
And while it's theoretically possible, it's very unlikely to happen just from drinking a sports drink. Many electrolyte drinks available on the market contain lots of sugar and artificial ingredients, so if you're looking for a healthier option, there are great sugar-free options. While maintaining a healthy diet is one way to achieve this, it's often necessary to take supplements with electrolyte drinks to make sure you're getting enough.