How Alcohol Affects Electrolyte Balance

By James Madeiros


After-Party Electrolyte Slide

When it comes to fixing hangovers we are often bombarded with fancy names for chemical cure-alls and countermeasures, and “electrolytes” are always among the honorable mentions.

It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot by energy drink marketing execs and athletes in Gatorade commercials, but no one ever talks about what an electrolyte is. To clear that up, we offer you a comprehensive list of electrolytes humans use and need to live: sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate.

As for what they do, each electrolyte serves a different function. Sodium, however, is arguably the most important because it regulates your body’s use of water. It is essential to maintain regular levels of sodium because this in turn will help your body marshal its most vital resource in the best way possible.

Alcohol depletes electrolytes by making demands on the body that force a greater need for them. When the next morning arrives, after losing electrolytes in converting alcohol’s toxins and dispelling them in the urine, getting to feeling good again requires replenishment.

Some sources of electrolytes are better than others, but few will argue over the superiority of bananas. They are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium, and don’t come with much in the way of downside.

Sports drinks and coconut water are also loaded with electrolytes, although there has been some dispute over which is better between the two. Coconut water has the win by the numbers, but it only comes in one flavor and is often more expensive.

No matter what the delivery system, though, it’s a fact that restoring the body’s electrolytes will help speed the recovery from a night out. If you’re feeling anxious, you may want to try a coconut water and banana smoothie, just to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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