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Why Sports Drinks Aren’t My Drink Of Choice For Sodium Loading

Like many POTS patients, I have low blood volume, and must consume large amounts of fluid in order to increase it. In order to “hold on” to all the fluid I drink, I must also consume large amounts of sodium. Nurses tend to do a double take of my chart when they see a few grams of sodium daily listed on my medication list. 

The large volume of mainstream articles online about “hidden sources of sodium” makes it easy for a gal like me to Google and come up with a list of common, sodium loaded drinks and foods. 

Today, I am going to focus on drinks in particular, because a popular recommendation in the POTS community is to drink electrolyte (sports) drinks in order to get enough sodium and other electrolytes. Electrolyte drinks work great for tons of patients and there is nothing wrong with using them. However, I notice many patients don’t know the sodium profile of electrolyte drinks versus other options, and I would like to help change that. 

Due to gastroparesis, I like to look at how I can get the most of a nutrient in as little volume of food as is possible, and sodium is no exception. I’m about to nerd out on you with numbers because I’ve been wanting to figure this out, and I figure what better place? 

Before I move forward with nerding out, here is a link to a post about how I fluid/sodium load first thing in the morning to try and work around my digestion issues. 

Alright. Here we go. First up, is canned broth and/or bouillon cubes. I get 2.4 grams (2400 mg) of sodium (that’s 103% of the daily value for healthy person) in a pint of fluid by using 1.5 of these bouillon cubes. Such condensed bouillon doesn’t suit everyone’s taste buds, but to give you perspective, it would take about 11 pints of Gatorade, 13.5 Thermotabs, or 180 non-broken Ruffles potato chips to get that much sodium.

Another potent source of sodium and electrolytes is Campbell’s tomato juice. Twelve ounces (3/4 a pint) has 970mg of sodium. It would take 4.5 pints of Gatorade or ~5 Thermotabs to equal this. As an added bonus over broth, it also has potassium, which is the ying to sodium’s yang. This serving size of tomato juice has 570mg of it which would take 9.5 pints of Gatorade or 38 Thermotabs to equal.

I drink a glass of Gatorade every morning because I think it is delicious, not because it is the best drinkable source of sodium. I personally find sports drinks to be a poor (and pricier) choice for anything aside from helping me gain weight or for enjoying the flavor. They also are a good choice when I need to to drink something, but don’t want to risk washing out sodium with excessive water intake (if I’m out of balance), yet also don’t need to massively sodium load. When I need to sodium load, I prefer to drink broth and tomato juice since they are sodium dense. 

Often, people choose electrolyte drinks because they want other electrolytes (potassium, calcium, magnesium) in addition to sodium, but in reality, these drinks aren’t an impressive of a source of other electrolytes. Sports drinks have more electrolytes than water, but not much (if any) potassium, calcium, or magnesium. 

To give perspective of how little potassium they tend to offer, one potato had as much potassium as 15.5 pints of Gatorade. A single serving of yogurt has as much potassium as 10.5 pints of Gatorade, and a banana as much as 7 pints of Gatorade. How much potassium companies can use to fortify beverages and food is regulated. Excluding prescription potassium pills, the most potent sources of potassium are juices and foods in which it is naturally abundant. 

I will write another post about electrolytes in general. Let me know if there is anything in particular about electrolytes you’d like to learn. For now, I will say I get my potassium from food when I can, and tomato juice when I can’t. I take a calcium/magnesium supplement to round out my electrolytes. 

End note: This post is me not being a perfectionist, and posting what I am able. *pats self on back* I recall writing a piece (for personal use) comparing the amount of electrolytes found in popular electrolyte drinks with the amount found in various drinks and foods. However, like socks in the dryer, it seems to have vanished. I have accepted this post’s focus being drinks and sodium. (For now. Later, I shall hunt every corner of my computer and flip through all of my notebooks until I have what I need to write the post I had envisioned.)  

I have even accepted the fact I just realized I forgot to include almond milk in this post’s analysis, despite the point of this post being my preferred drinks to get electrolytes… *takes deep breath* 

Ah-ha! I have found a loophole. This is good news because my brain wasn’t buying my deep breathing. This post is about potent drink sources of sodium, and while almond milk is comparable to Gatorade in its sodium content, it is not a potent source. Phew! Now I will be able to fall asleep tonight. (Actually I probably won’t… but at least it won’t be due to almond milk!)

15 thoughts on “Why Sports Drinks Aren’t My Drink Of Choice For Sodium Loading

    • I have not tried them, however think they seem like a good option if someone wants to go the sports drink route. I have heard a lot of people singing their praises too! Maybe they are an acquired taste?

      The reason I haven’t tried them is zero calorie sweeteners like Stevia do not agree with me. It makes me look as though I am expecting! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As I’ve said many times, your posts are amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I found a new Cardiologist over disagreement on me drinking Gatorade to salt load. This post is the proof of what I was trying to tell him. He felt that me not drinking it made non-compliant treatment and that I am preventing myself from making progress. Just this comment from him was enough for them to deny me in my fight for disability. What’s sad is that I explained that I was salt loading by other means (broth, almond milk and salty Tostitos Cantina gluten free chips), but because it wasn’t the he told me I was a non-compliant patient. So here I sit, still fighting for disability, but I love my new Cardiologist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What!? I wasn’t aware Gatorade is the only way to get sodium. He should publish a paper because I have never heard that. I wonder how all of the people who don’t drink sports drink even survive? ๐Ÿ˜€ It is good to hear you like your new cardiologist!

      You deserve to be on disability. You are the type of person it was created for. No more top secret vacations to New Mexico that are so secret, even you don’t remember them happening, okay?

      Thanks for the compliments on my writing. ๐Ÿ™‚ It feels good to be writing again!

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  2. I drink Powerade Zero because it has sodium and B vitamins, and trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and it’s sugar free. But if I want to load up on salt, I have macaroni and cheese, or beef broth, or corn chips.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this article. Since I have had my diagnosis confirmed, I am trying to learn how to maintain on a daily basis. I was told for years about adding more salt but I always ended up with an imbalance. I would drink water to healthy like everyone says but I didn’t realize that I literally have to UP my salt in take to have all not wash away to dangerous levels for me. It’s confusing and I thank you again for sharing. I bought about 40 bottles of Gatorade to get through a low bout recently. I also bought a half pound of kalamatta olives and I shake the salt over my eggs. The worst part is that I also have Gastroparesis so when my symptoms flair I don’t feel hungry since it’s all connected with my NCS. Eating is a chore and I was afraid of too much water so then came the dehydration. This helps me know how to hydrate AND to retain salt. I’ve been researching and I appreciate the time and dedication it to write this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i agree, i’m not a big fan of Gatorade and other sports drinks. they get expensive and can have a lot of sugar. unfortunately, i can’t do tomato juice because of MCAD. i sometimes drink nuun, but often will just add salt to whatever i’m drinking (like juice or lemonade).

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    • You’re doing it the old fashioned way!

      When I was first diagnosed, I would dump a teaspoon of salt on my tongue then chase it down with a drink. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Like

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