The Healthy Drinker Logo

Practical info for the smarter drinker

How Alcohol Affects Electrolyte Balance

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.

Electrolyte Depletion

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 =).


  1. Reply jason godwin May 18, 2019 7:04 pm

    1 tsp cream of tartar every day. 1 tsp cream of tartar = 500 mg potassium. if you drink take additional 1/4 tsp with sugar free (preferably but optional) fruit flavored water. it mixes well with fruit flavor because it is a by-product of the production of wine.

  2. Reply Michael Dec 18, 2018 9:54 am

    My lengthy response was to Tereza about her feet/legs…

  3. Reply Michael Dec 18, 2018 9:53 am

    I wonder if this will ever get to you, seemingly as the post was a couple years ago. I also have leg and feet issues from drinking. Try wearing 1 or 2 pairs of pajama pants and heavier socks. Get yourself a heating pad, I like the ones where you can control the heating element in bursts. The whole idea is to make your legs sweat a little. Warm them up so that the muscles relax. I’ve also found sleeping with a longer pillow between my calves and knees help flex the muscles in discomfort. Sleep on your side and clench the the pillow. Empty out the bladder and drink maybe 8-12 oz of water right before you pass-out. I like to keep Marc’s antacids next to my bed. They help with the heartburn that can occur from drinking to much water on a booze-belly (or if you smashed a big-ol’ plate before bed.) Good-luck, hope this helps!

  4. Reply Mike Nov 21, 2018 11:43 am

    Not sure if it’s related but this seems to be the closest explanation I’ve found. Multiple Drs. opinions were all dubious but didn’t totally discount it.
    As of a few years ago I suddenly have a “reaction” ? A few hours after drinking more than two drinks if any alcoholic drink. Dizzy, anxious, palpitations, that last an hour or two. Imbibed heavily while wearing an overnight “holter monitor” and reaction wasn’t heart related. My own experiments have yielded a regimen of a multivitamin, a banana, a sport drink and a few glasses of water before bed seem to lessen it markedly.

  5. Reply Scott F. Jan 5, 2018 6:43 pm

    Now I’m officially confused- Some diuretic substances (i.e. substances that push water out of the system, such as EtOH) are potassium sparing, and actually cause potassium levels to rise. Is EtOH one of these?

  6. Reply tereza Nov 24, 2016 1:32 pm

    I get painful feet and leg cramps while I’m sleeping after a night of drinking. What can I do before I go to sleep to stop this. Drink coconut water and eat a banana? Replenish my electrolytes??

  7. Reply Mike Mar 22, 2016 2:41 pm

    Hi Lauren, Certainly most important to do it after (before bed), but doing it while drinking and in the morning is also helpful. Hope this helps! -Mike

  8. Reply Lauren Jan 26, 2016 8:55 pm

    Currently drunk and wondering if you should replenish electrolytes while drinking or after? Does it make a difference. Also now hoping this blog and commenters are active enough to answer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  9. Reply Mike Oct 19, 2011 9:57 pm

    I’ve tried electrolyte Vodka but didn’t notice much of a difference. Personally, I like to replenish electrolytes in the morning. Bananas are a great source.

  10. Reply Karly Felton Oct 19, 2011 2:24 pm

    I just read about this Vodka called Voli that has electrolytes in it. Any thoughts? Has any tried it?

Leave a Comment