Electrolyte replacement drinks: Are they worth the cost?

Associated Press

Drinks with added electrolytes are becoming increasingly popular in the grocery store and online, especially during the summer. But are they worth the extra money compared to buying regular old water?

We found a group of high school baseball players and parents who like the thirst-quenching hydration they provide.

Heather Metters, a mother, said her son “drinks a lot of Gatorade, a lot of water and he has a cooling towel since he is a catcher.”

Jim Keene makes sure his son gets electrolytes, too.

“We’ve got some Gatorade here. We go for the Zero,” he said, reaching into his cooler.

Electrolytes are the minerals your body needs to function properly.

Hundreds of products, some with high prices

But Gatorade is just one of many electrolyte drinks these days. There are now hundreds of products on the market, from tablets to drinks to powders, that promise to replace electrolytes.

But they also cost more than a bottle of water, with some costing as much as $5 to $30.

So are they worth it? Dietitians say electrolyte replacements contain some essential nutrients and might be worthwhile if you spend a lot more time in the heat this summer.

But they say to be sure you’re reading the labels.

Registered dietitian Kate Patton says electrolyte replacements are great after a long workout or a long day in the sun.

“Sodium and potassium are the two main electrolytes that you hear the most about,” she said.

But she says to watch out for:

  • High sugar content
  • Extra caffeine
  • Labels that say “proprietary blend,” which Patton says can be a tactic for hiding certain ingredients

One caution: Patton says don’t confuse electrolytes with vitamin C supplements or other energy drinks.

Bottom line: She says to use electrolyte drinks for exercise or when you are sweating out in the heat.

But for other activities, she said, “If you’re exercising even less than an hour and it’s not too high intensity, just plain water’s fine.”

And that’s why many parents watching their children play on a hot summer day say plain water is OK with them. That way, you don’t waste your money.

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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