Sports Drinks with Electrolytes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Written By Brady Wirick

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Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are essential for many bodily functions, including maintaining fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling. While essential for health, not all electrolyte drinks are beneficial. Whether you’re an athlete or just someone trying to stay adequately hydrated, choosing the right electrolyte drink can be crucial for your health. Here’s a breakdown of which ones to avoid, why, and which ones you should consider instead.

Despite the critical roles they play, the importance of certain electrolytes, like sodium (salt), has been overshadowed by widespread myths. Salt has often been wrongfully demonized as something to avoid for heart health, leading many to limit their intake drastically. However, research, such as that presented in “The Salt Fix” by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, suggests that not only is salt not the villain it’s made out to be, but it is actually essential for many bodily functions and can be deficient in many diets. I highly encourage reading Dr. DiNicolantonio’s work to understand the significant health benefits that come from the right kind of salt in the right amounts.

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 3 Electrolyte Drinks to Avoid

  1. Pedialyte

Often considered a go-to for quick rehydration, Pedialyte is a product of pharmaceutical companies, which can be a red flag. It typically contains high levels of sugars, potential food dyes, and a cocktail of chemicals that might do more harm than good in the long run. The association with drug companies makes me skeptical of its formulation—do they prioritize health or profit?

  1. Commercially Sold Sports Drinks (Including Gatorade, Powerade, Prime etc.)

These are perhaps the most popular among everyday consumers. However, they are usually loaded with excessive sugars and artificial sweeteners, not to mention the food dyes they contain to make them visually appealing. These ingredients can contribute to a host of health issues.

  1. Liquid IV

Despite being newer on the market and heavily endorsed, Liquid IV falls into the same traps as its predecessors: it uses cheap sugar substitutes, inferior vitamin ingredients, and doesn’t shy away from artificial enhancers.

 The Dangers Lurking in Your Drink: Food Dyes and Artificial Sweeteners

Food Dyes: Common in many sports drinks, food dyes like Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1 have been linked to behavioral changes, allergic reactions, and even carcinogenic risks. These synthetic additives provide no health benefits and are used purely for aesthetic purposes.

1- Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to specific dyes, including skin rashes, hives, or respiratory issues like asthma. Yellow 5, for example, is known to trigger such reactions in susceptible individuals

2- Carcinogenic Risks: Some studies on animals have shown that certain food dyes might be carcinogenic. For example, Red 3 has been linked to thyroid tumors in rats.

3- Behavioral Effects: Aside from hyperactivity, some studies suggest that food dyes could contribute to other behavioral changes in children, such as irritability and sleep disturbances.

4- Genotoxicity: Certain food dyes have shown potential genotoxic effects, meaning they could damage genetic information within a cell, causing mutations that may lead to cancer.

5- Neurotoxicity: There are concerns about the long-term impact of food dyes on the nervous system, although more research is needed to understand potential outcomes fully.

6- Environmental Impact: The production and disposal of synthetic dyes can have harmful effects on the environment, contributing to pollution and the degradation of ecosystems.

Artificial Sweeteners: Substances such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, often found in ‘diet’ or ‘zero’ versions of sports drinks, can cause digestive issues, headaches, and mood disorders. They might also alter gut microbiota and potentially lead to glucose intolerance.

1- Hyperactivity in Children: Research suggests a link between the consumption of certain artificial colors and increased hyperactivity in children, particularly those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

2- Digestive Issues: bloating, gas, or diarrhea due to the body’s inability to fully digest certain artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and mannitol.

3- Headaches: headaches or migraines after consuming artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame.

4-Allergic Reactions: allergic reactions to artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, manifesting as itching, rashes, or swelling.

5- Blood Sugar Management: artificial sweeteners might affect blood sugar levels and insulin response.

6- Weight Gain: long-term use of artificial sweeteners causeweight gain by affecting hunger regulation and how sweet tastes are processed.

7- Mood Disorders: artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, to mood disorders like depression and anxiety in sensitive individuals.

8- Altered Gut Microbiota: Some research indicates that artificial sweeteners can negatively impact gut health by altering the balance of gut microbiota, potentially leading to glucose intolerance.

9- Potential Carcinogenic Effects: Ongoing debates and research continue regarding the long-term safety and potential carcinogenic effects of some sweeteners, though regulatory bodies like the FDA currently consider them safe when consumed within limits. 

3 Recommended Electrolyte Drinks with Clean Ingredients

  1. Myoxcience Electrolyte Sticks

   These sticks are designed for serious hydration without the junk. Myoxcience uses high-quality ingredients, avoiding unnecessary sugars and artificial additives, focusing on what your body truly needs.

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  1. Redmond’s Re-Lyte

   Redmond’s sticks to a minimalist approach, using real salt and natural flavorings. It’s a straightforward formula without the flashy marketing and dubious additives.

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  1. LMNT

 Praised for its clean label, LMNT offers a robust electrolyte balance with no added sugars or harmful chemicals. It’s a favorite among health-conscious consumers looking for reliable and effective hydration.

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Conclusion

Choosing the right electrolyte drink can significantly impact your health and performance. It’s important to read labels carefully and opt for products that commit to quality and transparency. Stay hydrated, but do it wisely!

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