Most people can skip electrolyte supplements, dietitian says

Unless you're an endurance athlete who trains for long spans, it's probably enough to focus on overall hydration.

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The rise of electrolyte-rich sports beverages, powders and other potions might make you wonder, “Should I add this into my workout routine or have in tow for hot summer days?” 

Dietitian Cory Zenner says the answer is mostly no — except for endurance athletes who train for more than one hour at a time, like marathoners, long-distance cyclists and Ironman competitors. 

“For the general population, if you're a weekend warrior just doing an hour of casual activity at the gym that includes a warmup and cooldown, you probably don't need them,” Zenner said. “It's not going to harm you. It's just probably not necessary. So you can save your money (and) just focus on really quality food and eating at consistent periods throughout the day.” 

Zenner says people with organ dysfunction such as chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure and cirrhosis of the liver should avoid products high in electrolytes because their sodium and potassium content could worsen their condition. Conversely, he noted that some health conditions may require increased intake of electrolytes, but that patients in that group would more likely be prescribed medication than directed to consume these products. 

Staying hydrated, Zenner says, should be your overarching priority on hot days and during routine exercise. 

“If you are out in the sun doing strenuous activity, whether that's work or recreation, you just need to make sure to stay well hydrated in general. Focusing more on liquids and total fluid intake rather than those electrolytes specifically."  

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on electrolytes and hydration.

UW Medicine