Electrolytes are salt minerals that conduct electricity and balance essential body fluids. Electrolyte imbalances, from dehydration or excessive sweating, can have serious health consequences. Gatorade contains sodium, potassium and chloride to help replenish lost electrolytes and keep your body running smoothly and efficiently, especially during exercise and sport.
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Sodium is one of the major electrolytes found in Gatorade as well as other sports drinks. An article in the November 2009 issue of "Nutrition Bulletin" suggests it may be the only electrolyte needed in sports drinks for exercise rehydration. It is a positively charged electrolyte found primarily on the outside of cells. Sodium plays a large role in regulating fluid balances in your body, and conducting electrical impulses in the nervous system. In relation to exercise, it stimulates sugar and water uptake in the small intestines and activates the thirst mechanism to keep individuals hydrated. Hyponatremia, or low sodium levels, can cause nausea and vomiting, fatigue and muscle weakness, confusion and, in more severe cases, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Potassium is a vital mineral and electrolyte needed for a variety of bodily functions. It is a positively charged electrolyte found primarily on the inside of cells and adequate amounts are needed for cells to function properly. Heartbeat regulation and muscle contraction are two of the major functions of potassium. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can be caused by excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhea, and consuming Gatorade is one way to replace lost potassium. Hypokalemia can cause weakness and fatigue, muscle cramps and possibly life-threatening heartbeat irregularities, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Chloride is a negatively charged electrolyte found primarily on the outside of cells. Working with sodium, potassium and water, chloride primarily functions in regulating the balance of fluids in your body. It also is a major component of stomach acid and helps control acid and base balances in the digestive system, according to the website ChemoCare. Your body can lose chloride through excessive sweating, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms of low chloride, or hypochloremia, may include high levels of sodium in your blood and dehydration.