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Potassium And Exercise: Sports Drink Or Orange Juice?

As I stutter through recovery from LungMutiny2010, I’m paying more attention to my diet. So as I try to go out for my 10-minute walk everyday, I still drink some sports drink — usually Gatorade made from the massive vat of powder you can buy at Costco.

We tend to get plenty of sodium in our diet — far too much in the U.S. actually — but I always worry about potassium when I’m sweating (Disclaimer: I am not an exercise physiologist or a cardiovascular or nephrology physician.)

I always thought that the widely-sold sports drinks were the best sources of potassium outside of eating bananas or some dried fruits. I was surprised to learn that an 8-ounce serving of orange juice contains 18-fold more potassium than an 8-ounce serving of Gatorade® (450 mg vs. 25 mg). Who knew?

I suspect this is a good thing when exercising, but perhaps a concern for hypertensive patients who must monitor their potassium levels.

Is there anyone with more practical knowledge about potassium and physiology willing to weigh in? Is a dilute, no-pulp orange juice (maybe 1:1 with water) a good adjunct to a sports drink when carrying multiple bottles of beverages on a bike ride or trail run?

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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One Response to “Potassium And Exercise: Sports Drink Or Orange Juice?”

  1. Courtney Hargrave says:

    This is a fantastic question! I am a dual qualified Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist and from my own knowledge this is what I would recommend.

    Fluid intake during exercise should aim to match fluid losses so that the overall fluid deficit remains low. Water will replace fluid losses, and is a good choice for sports lasting less than an hour, and perhaps, for situations where you don’t need to perform at your best. However for sports events longer than 60 to 90 minutes, we need to ensure we have adequate carbohydrate intake as well as electroylte replacement.

    The issue with Orange Juice is that is approximately 50% Fructose. Excessive consumption of fructose (especially if you are going to be consuming it regularly over an extended period) can result in fructose malabsorption which can result in IBS type symptoms such as upset stomachs and diarrhoea. HOWEVER fructose is digested slower than glucose and in theory should not create a big insulin response which will prevent again hypoglycaemia. So, if you can tolerate it then it is okay. So as you can see it has its pro’s and its con’s, but in my professional opinion I would avoid it.

    Sports drinks are a great option and provide adequate potassium intake However it should be noted that Potassium supplements are not recommended, research has shown that that a potassium deficiency is very rare, even with large sweat losses and a diet low in potassium and secondly excessive potassium intake is lethal as it disturbs the elctrical rhythm of the heart.

    I hope this helps or provides you with some new information!

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