First of all, it’s important to understand what electrolytes are. Electrolytes are minerals that break into small, electrically-charged particles called ions when they dissolve in water. Found in blood and cells, electrolytes are important to physical activity because they regulate bodily fluids, maintain blood pressure and support muscle and nerve functions. Sodium and chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate are all examples of electrolytes. Sodium and potassium are the electrolytes of which we generally lose the most when exercising, largely through sweat.

Myth: Electrolytes are necessary after working out.

Truth: Electrolyte replenishment is dependent on the duration and intensity of your workout, but most people’s regular workouts aren’t intense enough to need electrolytes immediately after exercise.

Your body requires a certain amount of these substances to function. However most people consume more than enough of these electrolytes every day. Sodium in particular is something that most Americans get in much larger quantities than their bodies need. Although you lose sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes, sports drinks contain more than just electrolytes, like sugar and water. If your workout is less than 1 hour, you don’t need to worry about replenishing your electrolytes since your body will still have plenty left. If you’re exercising to lose weight, drinking a sports drink after your work out may hinder your progress. You need to consume less calories than you burn, and the extra calories from the sugar in the sports drink may negate the extra calories you burned during your workout, resulting in little net benefit from your exercise. In this case, adding electrolytes during or right after your training will not provide any additional benefit.

Gatorade was the trend leader in electrolyte-fused drinks and was originally developed at the University of Florida to replenish fluid and electrolyte loss in football players doing two-a-day training sessions in the Florida heat. So on the other hand, if you’re going to be running a long-distance race, or doing another type of lengthy endurance exercise, you should be concerned about replenishing your electrolytes and rehydrating properly following your workout. You’ll also need carbohydrates to keep you fueled. In this case, sports drinks may be beneficial. Livestrong also suggests including foods high in electrolytes in your post-workout meal.