by Karie Anderson on March 4th, 2011
Can you ingest too many electrolytes?

We received this question this week from an athlete wondering if there is such a thing as too many electrolytes.

Val John Anderson, Director of Sales and Marketing for elete, reponds:

“Yes, of course, you can have too much of anything.

A number of athletes actually die every year from consuming too much water (called water toxicity or hyponatremia), which can dilute the body’s electrolytes to dangerously low levels.

Consuming too much electrolytes can also be a problem. You wouldn’t want to drink a whole large refill bottle of elete in one sitting for example. That being said, if you are consuming elete by mixing it with your water, you could actually go up to four times the recommended mixing level and not have any problems other than it would negatively affect the taste of your water. 

The surprising thing about elete is that people can achieve  results with fairly low levels of essential minerals. Which means that you are at extremely low risk for overdoing it.

The conditions (activity, temperature, etc.) that you are exposed to on a daily basis make a big difference as to how much electrolytes you need.  An individual who is not physically active or exposed to heat and who also eats a typical American diet may want to actually reduce the amount of sodium, an essential electrolyte, in their diet. On the other hand, athletes or individuals exposed to heat, lose more sodium than any other electrolyte. That is why you see reports of the government or doctors urging the general public to consume less sodium and at the same time, sports doctors regularly urging people to make sure that they consume enough.

The body works very hard to maintain steady levels of electrolytes through what is called homeostasis. If an individuals is deficient, the body will work to absorb more from the diet and to hold onto it in the body. If a person has an excess, the body won’t try to absorb as much and will work to get rid of it through sweat, urine, or other methods. The body also stores essential electrolytes to be drawn upon as needed. These stores can serve functional roles as well. Calcium, for example, is stored in the bones where it gives the bones strength. Magnesium is stored in the muscles where it is essential to the function of the muscles. The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body and it stores more magnesium than any other tissue in the body. 

You can say that electrolytes work as a team. An imbalance between the electrolytes can be just as serious as not having enough or having too much. Having a good balance between the electrolytes can help each one to function better. 

elete is an electrolyte with a lower emphasis on sodium than most sports drinks. elete also provides a higher percentage of the recommended dietary value or DV of magnesium than the other electrolytes. We believe that this emphasis or ratio is more in line with achieving the needs of athletes when you consider overall needs and what is consumed from the diet. Sodium is abundant in the diet and the main food source for magnesium is green leafy vegetables.

Going back to the question of whether you can consume too many electrolytes, given the level of of training for most athletes, it is more likely that an athlete would have a hard time getting enough electrolytes in your body than that you would be consuming too much.

Most athletes find that they need to be adding elete to whatever they drink all day long to build their body stores up as much as possible before they start to train or compete and then replace what their digestive system can tolerate during training or competition so that they deplete those stores as slowly as possible.”

6 Comments
  1. Karie, great post about elete and electrolytes. I recently started adding elete to my water that I drink throughout the day, and I feel that it has helped immensely during the 5 to 6 training sessions I have during the week. I have my first race of the season coming up in a few weeks and I look forward to seeing how this may affect my performance.

    • Sarah Kaufmann permalink

      Tyler, No doubt it has helped hydrate you through your training sessions – and that it will do so in your upcoming race. Good luck!

  2. Luci permalink

    I can’t seem to hold on to electrolytes but now I think I may be taking in too much.
    I’ve woken up with swollen hands and fingers for the last 2 days. I think I may have over done the electrolytes, minerals & salts. To counter this, should I take in more water?

    • Karie Anderson permalink

      Luci:

      You can drink more water, but you could also reduce the amount of elete that you’re adding to your water or beverages.
      Without knowing exactly how you’re using it, such as if you’re adding it to your drinking water you’re consuming throughout the day or maybe just adding once or twice daily, etc., yes, you could reduce the amount of elete you’ve been adding and see if that resolves the issue.
      Don’t overlook what your body is telling you and it’s clear from your e-mail that you haven’t. You are paying close attention to what your body is telling you. Perhaps try adjusting down the dosage of elete and see how that works for you.

      Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.

  3. Kurt nelson permalink

    I started taking elete about a day ago, it is really humid here and about 85-90 degrees,i work out side and sweat alot, notice excessive amounts of salt on my arms when they dry.
    I got dehydrated 4 years ago and am prone to cramping I get like 15-20 fluid iv's every summer, i have been taking a little bit over the normal dosage of elete, how much can i take? i drink probably a gallon and a half of water a day. But my muscles are still twitchy and popping and cramping when over worked?
    Thanks sincerely,
    Kurt Nelson

  4. Val Anderson (with elete) permalink

    Hi Kurt,

    Great Question. Needs for electrolytes can vary substantially from person to person. Some have higher needs due to physical exertion or spending time in the heat, others because they are on medications that flush electrolytes from their body, while others due to illness or even genetic issues that can create an inability to retain electrolytes.
    Some athletes who have a very high need for electrolytes will double or even triple the recommended mixing level of elete under certain circumstances.  At this level, the minerals will have a fairly strong taste that would be off-putting to many, but some find it necessary or their conditional benefits worthwhile. Some find it helpful to add elete on top of a regular or diluted sports drink. Others find it helpful to add elete to different foods and beverages throughout the day, even outside of times when they are sweating, if their needs are high, to rebuild body stores. This is because they can find it hard on their digestive system to try to replace all the electrolytes they are losing when in performance mode.  If your needs are quite high, you might want to consider using a combination of the tablytes a few times during the day in conjunction with beverages that have elete electrolytes mixed in.
    On a final note, if you decide to consume higher levels of electrolytes than the standard mix, pay close attention to your body.  If it feels like the electrolytes may be having any negative effects, back off on how much you consume until you feel better.  One of the benefits of elete is that you can customize the amount you consume to meet your individual needs. In order to do this well, you need to watch and listen to your body.
    If you have any laxative effect from the electrolyte water you are drinking it is a sign that you are mixing it too concentrated.

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