If you have diabetes and you are looking to say hydrated with an electrolyte drink, you know it can be difficult to find one that isn’t too high in sugar and carbohydrates. If you have started an exercise regime, it can also be challenging to keep your blood sugar from getting too low. Exercise removes glucose from the blood without using insulin, and is crucial in getting diabetes under control, but it is a delicate balance for your blood sugar being too high when you are inactive, and too low when you are active. It is important that the electrolyte drink matches your activity level, and you are not drinking an electrolyte drink with 25 carbohydrates while you are sitting inside, or one with zero carbohydrates while you are combining Zumba, Jazzercize and CrossFit.
In regards to these parameters, perhaps you were advised to choose an electrolyte drink that uses artificial sweeteners. While writing The New Menu for Diabetes, I did some research on artificial sweeteners and was shocked that these were recommended for diabetics. The studies clearly showed that these in fact should be avoided, and I wanted to go more in depth in this article regarding why you should avoid Splenda and Acesulfame K.
Why You Should Avoid the Following Electrolyte Drinks
The following is based on my research and opinion.
1. Powerade Zero
After doing some research, I noticed that Powerade Zero was the drink of choice for many diabetics due to it having zero calories. What’s in Powerade Zero?
UK Label: Water, citric acid, mineral salts (sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium phosphate), natural berry flavouring with other natural flavourings, acidity regulator (E332), sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame K), colour (E133).
US Label: Water, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Salt, Potassium Citrate, Sucralose, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Phosphate, Acesulfame Potassium, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Blue 1, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).
Sucralose is an organochlorine. It has been found to wreak havoc on intestinal bacteria (up to 50% destruction) and express two p-450 enzymes. Your beneficial bacteria is responsible for up to 80 percent of your immune system, your ability to lose weight, and emerging research is connecting anxiety and depression to low beneficial bacteria populations.
Acesulfame K (K is the symbol for potassium) seems to go under the radar quite often. It’s almost as if it’s hiding behind the other artificial sweeteners and sneaking in the back door into your drink. It’s often blended with other artificial sweeteners to yield a more sugar-like taste, which is why it gets less attention. It also shares a similar bedtime story as aspartame, being discovered by accident when the scientists dip their finger(s) in the chemical solution and lick it off, only to find it to be very sweet. As with sucralose, you have to really rifle through the studies to try and discover where the potential problems may lie.
Methlyene chloride is a solvent used in the beginning step of creating Acesulfame K. What is methlyene chloride? According to the EPA, it is predominately used as a solvent in paint strippers, removers and pharmaceutical drugs, and as propellent for insect sprays and aerosol paint sprays. Exposure from the inhalation of methylene chloride have been linked to headaches, nausea, memory loss, liver and kidney issues, visual and auditory dysfunction, cardiovascular problems and an increased rate of cancer.
According to this FDA 2003 document, “methylene chloride, a carcinogenic chemical, is a potential impurity in ACK resulting from its use as a solvent in the initial manufacturing step of the sweetener. In the past, FDA has assumed that methylene chloride is present in Acesulfame K at the LOD of 40 ppb (worst-case scenario) and has evaluated its safety by performing a risk assessment for methylene chloride based on this level. No new information has been received to change FDA’s previous risk assessment for methylene chloride.” You know how much of this should be considered safe for human consumption? Zero parts per billion.
According to the 2013 Code of Federal Regulations, Asulfame K also cannot have a fluoride content of more than 30 parts per billion. Fluoride? If you have been following any research regarding fluoride in our water supply, you know that ingesting too much can cause many problems. Compounding chemicals from different sources always need to be considered when looking at actual safety parameters for ingestion.
Gatorade is owned by PepsiCo, the makers of Pepsi and who dominate the sports drink market at 69 percent. Gatorade has 21 grams of sugar and dextrose per 12 oz serving, which should obviously be avoided by diabetics. Many of the colors and flavors seem a little extreme with their bright blues and reds. How are these made? The artificial colors and flavors are derived from aromatic hydrocarbons from petrochemicals. In other words, oil. Manufacturers are not required to divulge this information because artificial colors and flavors are considered intellectual property.
These food dyes have been found to inhibit mitochondrial respiration; the ability of the powerhouse of your cells to convert nutrients to energy. Red 3 causes cancer in animals, with evidence that other dyes also are carcinogenic. Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens. At least four dyes (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) cause hypersensitivity reactions, and numerous studies found Yellow 5 positive for genotoxicity. Depending on the flavor, Gatorade uses Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40 and Blue 1.
PediaLyte is a drink marketed to kids, for hydrating during times of diarrhea and vomiting, and may even be recommended if you have diabetes. As you can see from the label, there isn’t anything that makes PediaLyte stand out. It uses the same common cheap formula of dextrose, salt, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and food color dyes. They even have a bubble gum flavor. It also missing magnesium and calcium. But their marketing is what makes PediaLyte the first thing people think of when they are sick.
The main headline at the top of each PediaLytes drink is “Pedialyte helps prevent dehydration and quickly replaces fluids, zinc, and electrolytes lost during diarrhea and vomiting.” They have taken it a step further and added prebiotics which help probiotics colonize, yet they use sucralose. From a sucralose study, the total numbers of bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and other probiotics were significantly decreased. These strains of bacteria are what help keep you well and prevent diarrhea.
Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens, and numerous studies of Yellow 5 have been positive for genotoxicity. And Pedialyte is being marketed to children? Or anyone when they are sick?
Ingredients: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Potassium Citrate, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Zinc Gluconate, and Red 40, Blue Dye 1 or Yellow Dye 6 depending on the flavor. The AdvancedCare product also uses acesulfame K.
4. Electrolyte Drinks Using Sodium Benzoate
I originally had NUUN Active Hydration listed here due to the ingredients sodium benzoate and acesulfame potassium. It was brought to my attention that NUUN has now removed these two ingredients from their formula. If you didn’t see your drink listed here, check for sodium benzoate.
The concern is that when you combine sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid you create benzene, especially in the presence of heat and light (common with storing citrus flavored soda in a warm garage). Citric acid may act as a catalyst for this process in the presence of ascorbic acid. NUUN Hydration contains vitamin C in the active ingredients, making this a prime candidate for this reaction.
Benzene damages the cells mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell where you are generating energy in the first place! It has been found to cause cancer – leukemia and other cancers of the blood – by disabling a cell’s DNA. Benzene is also found in cigarettes, pesticides, car exhaust, paints and certain laundry detergents. Runners and bikers exposed to car exhaust should be especially mindful of this since vitamin C is an important antioxidant to protect against oxidative stress and promote tissue repair. As a diabetic, you may be taking vitamin C along with Metformin.
Vitaminwater is also owned by Coca-Cola. You may have noticed that the bottle contains “2.5 servings” which means you need to multiply everything by 2.5, a deceiving way to lower the amounts on the label from first glance. There are 32 grams of sugar in most of the products, crystalline fructose and sugar. Crystalline fructose is even higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup, and often tainted with heavy metals. Compare 32 grams of sugar in a bottle of Vitaminwater to 35 grams of sugar in one can of Coke.
You may have even read the about the lawsuit against Vitaminwater for calling itself a healthy beverage, and Coca-Cola has since acknowledged that it is indeed not. Too much refined sugar will make you cramp while you’re competing, upset your stomach, lower your immunity, deplete minerals and actually dehydrate you. As for the vitamins, they are cheap forms with questionable origin, and worthless to the body.
Best Electrolyte Drinks for Diabetes Guidelines
What is the criteria for the best electrolyte drinks for diabetes? I’m looking for a drink that contains all of the electrolytes, is sweetened with stevia or Lo Han Guo, does not contain any artificial sweeteners or colors, and is low in carbohydrates. A bonus is given if it contains chromium and vitamin C, both which are very beneficial for diabetics.
Stevia has been found to regulate blood sugar and prevent hypertension, decrease blood glucose and improve carbohydrate metabolism. Lo Han Guo has been found to improve insulin response, reduce blood sugar, lower lipid peroxidation and reduce protein spilling (better kidney function). When chromium is available in sufficient amounts, lower amounts of insulin are required to move glucose into the cells. One randomized, double-blind study found that after 12 weeks, vitamin C with metformin increased ascorbic acid levels, reduced fasting blood sugar, post-meal blood glucose and improved HbA1C compared to the placebo group.
The Best Electrolyte Drinks for Diabetes to Look for in Stores or Online
1. Coconut Water: A study from 2012 and a study from 2015 found that coconut water has anti-glycation properties, kidney protection, prevented hyperglycemia and oxidative stress. It is an excellent source potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, sodium, b-vitamins, enzymes and vitamin C.
The best way to enjoy coconut water is to buy a young coconut, take a hammer to the top, and enjoy it fresh and raw. If you want to buy coconut water in the store, you need to be more selective since many companies are going out of their way to deliver cheap coconut water that lasts for two years on a shelf, often from concentrate and with added sugar and flavors. That should make you suspicious.
What you want to look for is coconut water in the refrigerated section, that uses young coconuts, is not pasteurized and does not contain any added ingredients like natural flavors, fruit juice or sugar. The companies I have found that follow these guidelines include: Harmless Harvest, Unoco, Liquitera, Vital Juice and Juice Press. Many of these use a process called HPP, which sterilizes the juice with pressure instead of heat. This keeps the vitamins and enzymes in tact.
I did some traveling this summer (2015) and tested out numerous mineral waters and took pictures of each of the labels. While some mineral waters were very low in minerals, there were a few that were impressively high in all the electrolytes, including bicarbonate which is often missing and important for pH balancing. What stood out to me about Gerolsteiner from Germany is that it collects minerals from the dolomites, making it very high in calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate. And it tastes amazing, especially if you crave carbonated drinks. Add the juice of two lemons and powdered stevia to taste for a drink that tastes very close to a lemon lime soda.
That combination is perfect for those with headaches, nausea, fatigue and digestive issues. So if your doctor has recommended that you drink an electrolyte drink that isn’t necessarily to be used for exercise and sweating and needs to be low in sodium, this is the best choice straight from nature. If you are an athlete, keep it in the fridge and enjoy it later in the evening to supply more calcium and magnesium for sore muscles. If you want more energy and hydration while sitting at your desk, this is the best option. In the US, you can find it in liter bottles in Trader Joes or Whole Foods for $1.49 to $2.00, but if you can’t then online is the way to go.
The Best Electrolyte Powders and Liquids for Diabetes Online
Both Endure and Lyteshow use concentrated ionic minerals from the Great Salt Lake. They come in convenient liquid drops that you can add to any bottle of water, making them extremely convenient. Endure has slightly more magnesium, while Lyteshow includes zinc.
According to Lyteshow’s website, it has been clinically tested using firefighters, showing enhanced hydration with less water than regular water. The researchers found that “this can minimize carrying excessive weight, possibly reducing fatigue during extended exercise.” Both of these provide a great middle ground for those wanting to get enough sodium during exercise while having a better balance of magnesium, chloride and potassium without sugar or carbohydrates.
If you want to add a flavor, try the homemade PaleoEdge electrolyte drink:
32 oz. water
1 orange, lemon and 1/2 cucumber sliced
1/4 tsp. Endure or Lyteshow
Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator is recommended if you want portable single packets to take with you, a broader mineral profile and you want a zero calorie electrolyte drink. This one is pretty sweet, so you will want to dilute it quite a bit.
Ingredients: Potassium, natural lemon and lime flavors, magnesium, citric acid, malic acid, stevia extract, calcium, chloride, phosphorus, sodium, vitamin C, silicon dioxide, zinc, copper, selenium and chromium.
Heavy sweat loss equals a higher need for sodium and other minerals. So if you do long bike rides, runs or triathlons in warmer conditions and have experienced more than normal sweat loss, you want something a little more heavy duty. Hammer Endurolytes Fizz is a superior option for those that want to add something to their water and have a separate carbohydrate source in mind.
Contains 200mg sodium, 100mg potassium, 60mg chloride, 50mg magnesium, 3mg manganese gluconate, 13mg B6, 100mg L-Tyrosine, and less than 1mg carbohydrates.
Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte/Energy Formula is recommended only for exercise lasting 1-2 hours if you are needing to prevent low blood sugar. The carbohydrate level is low, but it is important to monitor glucose after the first trial dose to see how you respond. Choose the other options if you are wanting an electrolyte drink while you are inactive or taking part in a light to moderate exercise regime.
- vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 100 mg.
- calcium (as calcium citrate) 50 mg.
- magnesium (as magnesium citrate) 50 mg.
- chloride (as sodium chloride) 75 mg.
- sodium (as sodium chloride) 50 mg.
- potassium (as potassium phosphate) 50 mg.
- alpha ketoglutarate 200 mg.
- malice acid 200 mg.
- l-tyrosine (free-form) 500 mg
carbohydrate: 7 g
sugars: (glucose): 3.5 g
Ultima Replenisher is recommended as a balanced moderate electrolyte drink. It can be used as a hydrating drink on a hot day, or with light to moderate exercise. My only criticism is the use of potassium aspartate, which could potentially be an issue for those with excitatory sensitivities.
Ingredients: Citric acid, malic acid, natural pomegranate flavor, beet juice color, beta carotene, rebaudioside A and cherry powder.