Sep 13, 2023 - Food and Drink

Electrolyte supplements getting more popular in Metro Detroit

Illustration of lightning inside of a water drop.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Electrolyte supplements have carved out a shockingly big market niche in Metro Detroit, even though they're supported by limited scientific evidence.

Why it matters: Although influencers and marketers consider electrolyte powders hydration hacks, doctors say that regularly drinking them instead of just plain water is a waste of money.

By the numbers: More than double as many electrolyte powders have sold in our region in the last year compared with two years ago, according to consumer research company NIQ. The figure is more than triple 2019's.

  • You've probably at least seen products like LMNT, Liquid I.V., Sqwincher or DripDrop online, in local pharmacies or even in a wedding welcome bag. And mineral supplement videos get millions of views on TikTok.
  • Costs vary — LMNT's website sells 30 drink mix packs for $45, while Liquid I.V. is $14 for six servings at a local pharmacy.
Data: NIQ; Note: Includes sales of powdered drink enhancers that list electrolytes on the packaging from grocery, mass merchandise and drug stores in the U.S.; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: NIQ; Note: Includes sales of powdered drink enhancers that list electrolytes on the packaging from grocery, mass merchandise and drug stores in the U.S.; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: "Eat a handful of berries or a handful of mixed nuts ... and save your money," says Mark Loafman, chair of family medicine at Cook County Health in Illinois.

  • "There's no evidence that a supplement gets the job done, and there's no testing on the stuff," Loafman tells Axios.

Between the lines: When you exercise, you lose electrolytes like sodium, and your body can help replace some of that as long as you stay adequately hydrated.

  • If you wanted a liquid with enough sodium to replace what you lose through a strenuous workout, "you'd have to take two or three chicken bouillon cubes … in a cup of water," according to Grant Lipman, emergency medicine physician at Washington Hospital Healthcare and founder of GOES Health.
  • But if you're hungover and vomiting, there's "anecdotal evidence" that sipping an electrolyte drink with a little sugar in it can help, per Lipman.

💭 Joe's thought bubble: I usually rely on tap water for my daily hydration, but drinking enough water every day can be a chore — so I was intrigued by this potential shortcut.

  • The strong, salty flavor of the lemon-lime Liquid I.V. that I mixed into a tall glass of water hit me hard. I looked at the nutrition facts — 500mg of sodium and 11g of added sugars in one serving!
  • I wasn't hungover, so maybe I didn't realize the full benefits. But with its high cost and sodium content, I'd rather fill up my water bottle for free.
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