Electrolytes & Drinking Water

Water swirling in a wineglass
Drinking water is vital to your body, especially during exercise, but it doesn't provide electrolytes. (Image: GYRO PHOTOGRAPHY/amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images)

Dehydration can occur quickly during exercise. This is especially true if you are exercising for long periods of time and/or in hot temperatures. Your body needs to replenish water during and after exercise to prevent dehydration and facilitate normal processes like sweating. But over longer periods of physical activity the body also loses electrolytes. These need to be replaced as well, and water does not contain them.

Electrolyte Function

Your body needs electrolytes at all times. They are molecules that contain free ions -- many are minerals -- and help to regulate many processes in the body, including nerve and muscle function, hydration, blood pH, blood pressure and healing damaged tissue, according to MedicalNewsToday.com. Electrolytes are obtained naturally through many foods and are usually not a concern to individuals adhering to a casual exercise routine. In more extreme cases, though, your body's electrolytes need to be taken into consideration.

Fluid Replacement after Long Workouts

Brian Mac on BrianMac.co.uk recommends drinking small amounts of water every 10 to 15 minutes during exercise. This helps to immediately replace the water lost through perspiration. For exercise lasting more than 60 minutes, other nutrients must be included. Mac recommends drinking a beverage that features a carbohydrate content of 5 to 7 percent. This allows the body to absorb the carbohydrates at a quick rate, providing quick fuel and helping to replenish electrolytes to the body.


Many commercial sports drinks, including Gatorade, Powerade and Vitamin Water all feature carbohydrates and electrolytes that are valuable for people exercising in excess of 60 minutes. But you can also make your own sports drink featuring electrolytes. BrianMac.co.uk recommends adding a small amount of orange or fruit juice to water, or mixing 5 tbsp. table sugar and 1/3 tsp. salt into a liter of water.


If you have diabetes or suffer from other blood sugar-related conditions, consult a doctor before taking sports drinks to replenish electrolytes. Be aware that you can still consume water when you are exercising for periods longer than 60 minutes, but fluids featuring electrolytes become more important once you pass the hour mark. Additionally, you can preserve your dental health by drinking sports drinks through a straw or drinking them quickly and rinsing the mouth with water to remove sugars from your teeth.

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