Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who engage in regular, high-intensity workouts place higher demands on their bodies than people with ordinary activity levels. They may need to take in higher quantities of calories, carbohydrates and protein in order to fuel their higher metabolic rates. Higher levels of activity also mean more perspiration, especially in warmer environments. This makes it important to stay hydrated and pay attention to levels of electrolytes, including potassium. Orange juice is useful as a source of fluids and potassium.
Workouts, Perspiration and Electrolytes
People engaging in light workouts or exercise seldom sweat enough to require anything more than water and the nutrients in their existing diet to maintain good health. However, strenuous workouts of 90 minutes or longer may cause enough perspiration to affect the body's level of electrolytes. These are chemicals -- primarily sodium and potassium -- that regulate how cells handle water. If the body's electrolytes are low or out of balance, it can result in dizziness, disorientation, impaired mental function or even death. Sports beverages are designed to replace electrolytes, but other beverages including orange juice can do so as well.
Potassium and Cramping
Cramping is a familiar and unwelcome sensation to athletes and nonathletes alike. One or more muscles suddenly contracts well past the point of normal, shrinking to a tight and painful knot. There are many theories about their causes but little reliable clinical data. Potassium-rich foods including bananas and potatoes are often recommended before a workout in the belief that unbalanced electrolytes cause cramps. Although this doesn't necessarily apply to all cramps, Dr. Michael Bergeron of the University of Georgia told "The New York Times" in 2008 that excessive perspiration can cause cramps by depleting the body's supply of potassium.
Orange Juice and Potassium
Many foods aside from potatoes and bananas are high in potassium, including beans, greens and oranges. For those whose regular workout is strenuous, orange juice can be a useful beverage. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrient database, 1 cup of orange juice contains 14 percent of the daily value potassium, as well as water, carbohydrates and numerous vitamins and minerals. If you'd rather prepare for your workout with a shake containing protein and greens, one-third cup of orange juice concentrate adds the same nutritive benefits and gives the shake a pleasant flavor.
Orange Juice Versus Athletic Beverages
The alternative to a glass of orange juice is a bottle of a commercial athletic beverage. These can be purchased complete or made up as needed from a can of concentrated powder. These beverages are more consistent in their nutritive content than orange juice, which as a natural product will vary slightly from one batch to another. Orange juice is higher in calories than sports beverages, but its sugars are completely natural. Orange juice is also higher in most other nutrients than sports beverages.