Photo by Marissa Angell

Despite what the name suggests, electrolytes are not something you can hang on your Christmas tree (or Hannukah bush). They’re actually minerals, like sodium or potassium, essential to regulate body fluids. We lose them as we sweat and without them muscle cramping and fatigue can set in. But that isn’t a license to gulp down sports drinks after any old workout. The body loses water faster than electrolytes, so for a workout less than an hour long, water will do the trick for rehydrating. Up the intensity, and how much you need to refuel will depend on how much you sweat. In general, men sweat slightly more than women, and (typically) the bigger you are, the more you sweat. Exercise intensity also plays a role in sweat volume.

To know exactly how much to drink, weigh in before and after a workout. Drink 16 to 24 ounces (most disposable water bottles fall somewhere in that range) per pound of body weight lost. Looking for other sources of electrolytes? Try fruits and veggies if sports drinks aren’t your thing, or to avoid the extra sugar. Leafy greens and salty foods (like tomato juice and peanut butter) can also help restore the body’s electrolyte balance.

The Takeaway: When working out for under an hour, there’s usually no need to worry about electrolyte balance— just drink-up H2O. For more intense sweat sessions, drink 16 to 24 ounces per pound of body weight lost.

Why You Sweat

It may be gross, but it’s necessary— the body sweats to regulate temperature. When sweat hits the air, it evaporates and leaves the skin slightly cooler.

Fun Fact:

Sweat doesn’t actually smell. Bacteria living on the skin combine with sweat to make things stinky!