Is your sports drink failing you?


Updated 4/12/2017

By pH health care professionals

At professional football games across America, sports drinks flow like champagne.

They remind us that hydration and electrolytes are a natural and necessary finale to vigorous exercise. But what are electrolytes, exactly? Which ones do we need? And is all that sugar in sports drinks really in our best interest?

Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate and carbonate are all electrolytes. They have to be kept in balance for the body's functions to work properly.

For example, too much pure water relative to sodium can result in seizures. If there is too much calcium relative to magnesium, muscles can twitch involuntarily.

As you learned in high school gym class, you lose many electrolytes by sweating during exercise. According to a study published in a sports physiology journal, sweating results in losses of sodium potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Trace elements like copper and iron escape, too. These electrolytes need to be replenished.

So, what do sports drinks provide?

A quick look at the label of one of the most popular sports drinks reveals: water, sodium, potassium, citric acid and citrate, sugars (a whopping 14 grams per 8-ounce serving — that’s right, you’re not supposed to drink the whole bottle!), potassium phosphate, and a puzzling array of the following:  gum arabic, sucrose acetate isobutyrate, glycerol ester of rosin, and yellow 6.

Other formulations add tiny amounts of calcium and magnesium, but may contain twice as much sodium as traditional sports drinks. .

So what’s the problem?

Increasing evidence shows that magnesium — an element and electrolyte that relaxes muscles in the body and supports proper cellular function — is missing in some sports drinks.  

Amongst professionals, the importance of magnesium is widely known. As early as 1992, scientists were sounding a call to action. Magnesium, they said, should be added to drinking water supplies, like fluoride.

This is because statistics demonstrated a clear link between low magnesium and sudden death from cardiac arrest. Cardiologists already know that low magnesium (in combination with low potassium) may cause sudden cardiac arrest. Studies show that individuals with normal magnesium levels have a 38% reduced risk of going into cardiac arrest and sudden death is more common in cities where magnesium deficiency is also common.  

Additionally, low magnesium can also be implicated in diabetes, high blood pressure and clogged arteries — all major risk factors for having a heart attack.

What’s an athlete to do?

For starters, upgrade your rehydration drink from a magnesium-less sugar drink, to one which contains magnesium and other critical nutrients.

If you’re interested in learning more about the important role 14 critical minerals, including magnesium, play in your health and performance, consider reading  Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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