Do Sports Drinks Prevent Hyponatremia?

Posted on 29 Jun 2009 20:04

Hyponatremia is an electrolyte imbalance in which the sodium concentration in blood plasma falls lower than normal. It has been believed, for many years that we "lose" salt through our sweat.

This is why our high school track coach encouraged us to take salt pills. Hyponatremia is also what sports drinks are supposed to prevent. As far as most coaches were concerned back then, we were losing salt by the gram as soon as we started sweating.

Even today, many accept this without question. In fact, I had a brief conversation with an acquaintance just the other day in which Gatorade came up. I told her how I used to love Gatorade for it's taste (except the green kind) but that I realized that I drank MORE when I used Gatorade or other sports drinks as compared to when I just drank water.

It was no surprise however, when she muttered the "it replaces your electrolytes" line without complete conviction. I, in a moment of naive enthusiasm for human intelligence, began to explain how there was very little real science to support…but I stopped myself before any of the remaining hairs abandoned my scalp.

graph comparing full strength gatorade, half strength gatorade, and water effect on sodium concentrations by distance

Through the amazing power of marketing, people are able to use the words like "electrolytes" confidently without even having a clear idea of what electrolytes are!

That brings me to the last installment of Theories and Fallacies of Muscle Cramps by Ross and Jonathan of Science of Sport.

Continue Reading » Muscle Cramps Part V

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This page created 29 Jun 2009 20:04
Last updated 24 Feb 2015 22:38

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