Electrolyte drinks- thoughts please?

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28/10/2012 at 14:27

I exercise 5 days a week, and have recently taken up running three times a week to add to the mix. I am overweight, but the running has helped with the weightloss massively! Still have a way to go, but I am committed to get down to a sensible weight. I generally train for an hour to an hour and a half, and drink just water.

Previously (when training for a power walking marathon, so I needed the fuel) I used those sugary electrolyte drinks, but don't feel that I 'need' them at the moment, since my excess weight should be able to fuel me sufficiently. That said, I do try and eat healthy snacks before or after a workout, depending upon what time of day I run.

We had a free sample with a running magazine this weekend, of an electrolyte drink that has no calories (Zero). The claim is that by drinking this drink. I would 'burn more fat' during my workout.

Does anyone have any thoughts on whether this might have any truth in it at all? Do people use these drinks, and have they noticed any difference? Obviously if there's a chance I can increase the effectiveness of all my hard work that would be great, but I don't want to be suckered in by a clever marketing claim.



28/10/2012 at 14:38

There was a Panorama (or similar) documentary about these a few weeks ago.  In a nutshell, don't bother.  You're not at a level where they'll help, and you're unlikely to ever be.

28/10/2012 at 16:27
Tina. Well done on the running and weight loss. Sounds like you are doing great.

The sugary "electrolyte" drinks, sports drink you mean like Lucozade sport? They aren't needed unless you're doing maybe 90-120 minutes plus exercise, even then could dilute them. Ive done the same as you in the past, gym session equals buy a sports drink but it's just extra calories. Water or cordial will do fine. Sometimes the sweet taste is all you need to keep going, brain is fooled.

Zero tablets are pretty good for getting that sweet taste without the calories. Replenish your salts too if sweat a lot.
28/10/2012 at 16:42

Thanks! I'm heading towards stone numebr 5, so very chuffed with that.

I'm perfectly happy drinking water, but definitely sweat a lot . The running group that I go out with joke that we reckon we must be the sweatiest bunch of runners out there!

28/10/2012 at 16:58
Tina - just to clarify, electrolyte drinks and sugary drinks are designed to provide two different things. The sugary ones, such as Lucozade, are designed to replace energy (although personally I find they give me awful stomach cramps). The zero calorie electrolyte drinks, either as liquids or tablets that you dissolve in water, are to replace salts (eg sodium and potassium). Electrolytes are useful on long or very hot runs, and they can help you to take on enough liquid as they are often easier to drink than plain water, and I find they have less of that 'sloshing' feeling in my stomach. A lot of them contain aspartame, which is worth avoiding, but if Zero is the High 5 one, which I think it is, it doesn't.

Sorry, bit of a ramble, but in summary, if you're happy with water, stick with it. If you're planning to run more than an hour and a half on a hot day, consider electrolytes to help with hydration. But I doubt if they'd have much effect on fat burning.
28/10/2012 at 17:05
Zero might be good occasionally, good if you sweat a lot. Depends how long you go running for, or a long or double gym class if you do them. A friend splits them into halves even.

Less than an hour, not needed. A bit of cordial (no added sugar) can help taste wise. You can just make your own sports drink, bit of salt with some cordial, the variety with sugar. Google for tips.

I'm just past stone 6. Whatever you're doing, keep doing it.
28/10/2012 at 17:09

yes, sorry, didn't mean to confuse the two kinds of drink! Def going to avoid the sugary ones, they make me feel peculiar! Second marathon I did I swapped to flapjacks and they were much better, fuel-wise.

May try some of the Zero occasionally. I wear a HRM, and an hour's high intensity spin class makes me very thirsty (and I burn between 750 and 850 calories!!), plus we're doing an all-day class fundraiser in a few weeks where we do back to back classes (BodyPump, Spin, Combat etc) to raise money for the local Chemo unit.

6 stone? That's fab!

28/10/2012 at 17:34
Zeros would be good for the fund raising day. They don't burn more fat, just replace salts so in theory allow you to keep on going longer.

2 marathons? Both power walking ?

I've drunk electrolyte during long runs, marathons & an ultra. Also had those little packets of dried fruit you put in lunch boxes (69p for 12).

Where is the fund raiser? My Missus works at oncology hospital..
28/10/2012 at 19:10

Yes, 2 marathons, both power walked. Moonwalk in 2008 to celebrate being forty (and not past it), and the Macmillan Pembrokeshire Dawn Walk here a couple of years ago. I'm now on the organising committee for it.

Fundraiser is for Chemo Unit at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, here in Pembs. Our BodyPump Instructor's Dad was treated there before he passed away in the summer. Instructor has already raised £3k odd by running Offa's Dyke in 6 days!!!

28/10/2012 at 20:59

Tina, if you just want electrolytes in your water and are not looking for a sweet taste, I'd recommend Elete - concentrated salt solution which you add to water, so you can make it up stronger if you're sweating loads - and no chemical aftertaste (which I find I get with High 5 or Nuun tablets).

28/10/2012 at 21:39

The whole needing salt thing seems to be in the process of being completely discredidited at the moment.

30/10/2012 at 17:56


30/10/2012 at 18:26

I personally use nuun tabs (sometimes split them in half, as mentioned above, depending on 'need'). Cannot stomach elete - was given it one time on an ultra when I thought I was getting plain water, and it took a couple of hours (and lots of water) to get rid of the sick bloated feeling - but lots of people do like it.

I find nuun a lot easier to drink than plain water, once you get into the bigger ultra miles. Generally I avoid all stuff like lucozade etc as it gives me the trots!! Try to stick to solid food, kendal mint cake is great!!

Find what works for you and stick with it. As for 'weight loss', I would take all of that with a pinch of the proverbial salt .

31/10/2012 at 15:44

Listened to the Tim Noakes talk.  He only briefly touched on electrolytes, his main argument was that runners were encouraged to drink far too much water.  I agreed with a lot of what he said, but some of his supposed facts were opinions and he sometimes confused evolution with adaptation. 

I have managed on two occasions to get simultaneously dehydrated and water logged by taking on water too late in the day and I could not absorbed it properly.  I now try and take on some form of electrolyte on my longer events, especially when it's hot.

31/10/2012 at 21:20
Edited: 31/10/2012 at 21:24
31/10/2012 at 22:50

Hi Tina, firstly congratulations on achieving your goals. You seem to be progressing very well and good luck with your charity fundraiser. I have relatives who've used that facility at Withybush so it's close to my heart.

I think that I can only reinforce what the others have said, in that you probably don't need the zero tablets, however I find that I tend to use them quite a lot, but normally only after exercise to rehydrate as I don't drink much when I'm running. I do find that I have much better water retention if I use something like Zero, than just plain water and as I do most of my training in the evening, it means that I don't have to keep getting up out of bed for a wee ....(like I would if I drank over a litre of water immediately before bedtime  ).

However, I find the comment about burning more fat misleading. It's true that if you insist on drinking sugary energy drinks during training, then switching to Zero will increase your fat burn, but not if you only drink water. I'm not explaining this very well, but I feel that certain drinks companies have for years tried to get everybody drinking energy drinks, and now they're trying to switch everybody back to a zero energy drink with the promise of increased fat burn. If you just drink water (or water with a pinch of seasalt) then there's no real benefit.

I suppose they're pandering to the market  I saw tonight in the gym, where people were doing 20 minutes of slow running on a treadmill and then glugging down a huge bottle of high energy drink.

So to summarise my rather rambling post. No you don't need them, just drink water, or water with a pinch of seasalt and maybe some squash.

(seasalt contains other trace minerals as well as simply sodium).

01/11/2012 at 07:39

Redjeep, thanks for your reply, it all makes sense! As my DH said, humans managed sporting feats perfectly well before the manufacturers 'invented' all this stuff that we supposedly need . Point taken about perhaps trying it in the evenings  (zero, not the others) as I tend to run then; but if I'm honest I prefer the taste of water to anything flavoured, so it won't be very often.

Know what you mean about the gym; there are guys in ours who walk on the treadmill (no incline, slowly) for all of five minutes chugging away on protein shakes!!


01/11/2012 at 10:33

Five stone? Wow. That's amazing! And if you like the taste of water and you get on fine drinking it during long workouts, just stick with it. I prefer water over the zero cal electrolyte drinks almost all of the time. I've tried out nuun and Zero on long runs - 30+ miles - as everyone was telling me I'd be losing sodium and potassium and I'd really need to replace it, but each time I've ended up tipping it out of my water bottle halfway round and refilling with plain water as that's what I'm craving...

01/11/2012 at 13:05

I've recently started using the GU Electrolyte Drink tablets. They use stevia, a natural sweetener, and have very few calories, and I think they taste better than some of the others. I drink it at work, because I forget to drink and end up super-dehydrated before training, and after swimming because I tend to get really dehydrated because you're sweating but don't notice it.

I wouldn't pay much attention to the fat burn claim though, unless there's something on zero's website that substatiates it, it sounds like bs to me.

01/11/2012 at 13:19
There actually is data that substantiates their claim pretty solidly, but as the study was done on serious performance athletes I don't think it really means much to the average runner/cyclist of modest ability. But it's not BS. They're one of the few companies that can back up their claims.
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