LMNT’s electrolyte ratios explained

From the desk of
The LMNT Team
ScienceLMNT’s electrolyte ratios explained

LMNT contains 1000 mg sodium, 200 mg potassium, 60 mg magnesium, and zero sugar. This bold yet simple formula is based on the latest scientific literature and evidence gathered from coaching tens of thousands of clients.

Finding a solution in plain sight

As a former research biochemist and New York Times bestselling author, LMNT Co-Founder Robb Wolf is well-versed on the intricacies of metabolism, especially in the context of fasting and low-carb diets. And his former coaches spent years assessing and optimizing the diets of their community. This combination unlocked a powerful insight.

When Robb — frustrated with his performance on the jiu jitsu mat — came to his coaches for advice, they knew immediately: he needed to dial in his electrolytes, specifically sodium. And when he took their advice a switch flipped, both on and off the mat.

But he wasn’t alone. Others adhering to otherwise healthy whole foods diets were exhibiting the symptoms of sodiumpotassium, and magnesium deficiencies, too. Robb and his former coaches started to tinker with DIY electrolyte drink recipes and share them with their communities. It wasn’t long before people began to realize how much better they felt when they got the right amount of sodium.

The glaring gap in the electrolyte drink market suddenly seemed obvious. Everything in store was either woefully lacking in sodium, contained loads of sugar, or both. Sweat isn’t sweet, so why were all the so-called ‘sports’ drinks? That’s right. Just as important as what we put in LMNT is what we left out: calcium, phosphorus, and public health enemy #1: sugar.

Let’s dive into the clinical evidence behind the LMNT electrolyte ratio, starting with sodium, and then potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals.

Sodium in LMNT

Each stick pack of LMNT contains 1,000 mg of sodium. Sodium is an essential mineral — the stuff of life — and many folks need more than they think. There are several reasons for this:

  1. To replace heavy sodium losses through sweat. Athletes can lose several grams of sodium when training, particularly in hot, humid climates. We’ve talked to professional athletes’ trainers and they often log up to a 10-gram sodium loss in a hard practice or game.
  2. To balance diets lacking in sodium. Processed foods contribute about 70% of US Americans’ sodium intake. When you ditch processed foods in favor of a healthy Paleo or whole foods diet, you significantly reduce your sodium intake.
  3. To increase sodium intake on diets which cause rapid sodium loss:
    1. Low-carb diets (especially ketogenic diets) minimize the body’s production of insulin. Consequently, your kidneys excrete sodium at an increased rate.
    2. Fasting minimizes insulin similarly to low-carb diets, causing rapid urinary loss of sodium. In addition, you don’t consume any sodium via food during a fast.
  4. To help people reach a baseline of 4–6 grams of sodium per day.

Athletes and folks on low-carb diets may need more sodium, but isn’t salt bad for your heart? The truth is, that’s not nearly as cut and dry as it’s been made out to be. Our 4–6 gram target comes from a 2011 JAMA study which found that 4–6 grams of sodium per day was the sweet spot for minimizing heart attack and stroke risk. To be clear, that’s a starting point. Folks with any of the aforementioned diet and lifestyle factors often need more.

Potassium in LMNT

Each stick pack of LMNT contains 200 mg of potassium, which is ⅕ of LMNT’s sodium content (1 gram). This 5:1 sodium-to-potassium ratio is important – let’s geek out on why now.

The sodium-potassium pump is a life-sustaining protein pump in our neurons’ cell membranes. For every 3 sodium ions it releases, it takes in 2 potassium ions — a process which enables everything from muscle contraction to neuronal firing. To help our pump function optimally, our total sodium and potassium intake should reflect this 3:2 ratio.

Because athletes, low-carbers, and intermittent fasters alike incur greater sodium losses, and because minimally processed foods are naturally low in sodium, sodium tends to be the bigger issue. To account for this, LMNT was intentionally formulated with a 5:1 sodium-to-potassium ratio. It puts us in a better position to hit the 3:2 sodium-potassium pump ratio.

While we could have put more potassium in LMNT, we find it’s ideal to consume potassium mostly through diet. Yes, diets low in carbs are often low in potassium-rich foods like fruit and potatoes, and more potassium is lost through urine on keto. But eating plenty of foods like meat, avocados, spinach, etc. should get even ketogenic dieters most of the way to the sodium-potassium pump ratio (3:2).

Potassium is also an issue for people eating a plant-poor Standard American Diet (SAD). The SAD is why only 20–40% of Americans achieve the daily adequate intake set by the National Academy of Medicine (3.4 grams for men and 2.6 grams for women). And that’s just adequate. The evidence for higher intakes (between 3.5–5 grams per day) being optimal is strong, especially for potassium reducing blood pressure.

When establishing your personal goal, keep in mind factors like your size, sodium intake, activity level, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. These and other diet & lifestyle factors all affect your potassium needs.

Magnesium in LMNT

Each stick pack of LMNT contains 60 mg magnesium.

Magnesium is a crucial mineral. It aids in energy production, DNA repair, muscle synthesis, restful sleep, and many other things we care about, yet up to 30% of the population may be deficient in magnesium. This is likely why we see positive effects from magnesium supplementation on sleep, strength, anxiety, and depression.

Anthropological evidence suggests that our ancestors consumed about 600 mg of magnesium per day. Between 400–600 mg seems to be a reasonable target for optimal health, and there’s no downside to shooting for the upper end of that range. Try to get there with magnesium-rich whole foods first, then supplement your shortfall.

Why Don’t We Use Calcium?

LMNT doesn’t contain calcium, in part because many people are already getting the RDA (about a gram) through a whole foods diet.

But we also have concerns about supplemental calcium. Some clinical evidence suggests that calcium supplements increase soft tissue calcification in the arteries, among other places. This may increase heart disease risk. Some speculate that this effect is exacerbated by widespread vitamin D deficiency or could be mitigated by vitamin K2, but further research is required to determine whether or not this combination of nutrients could actually improve cardiovascular health.

We decided to keep LMNT’s formulation both simple and effective. We’re not against calcium, we just encourage folks to get their 1 gram per day through diet. And if, like us, you eat a whole foods, low-carb, ketogenic, or Paleo diet, the chances are you’re already hitting that.

Why Don’t We Use Phosphorus?

It was a no-brainer to skip the phosphorus (also called phosphate) in LMNT. Phosphorus deficiency is extremely rare because phosphate is abundant in the food supply. Most people actually consume too much of it. An excess intake of phosphorus elevates a hormone called PTH, which in turn tells your bones to shed calcium. Not ideal for bone density. Sometimes more is not better.

What About Trace Minerals?

Trace minerals are minerals that are present in small amounts in the human body. Some are essential for proper function, while others scientists remain unsure about.

The main trace minerals are:

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Fluoride
  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Chromium
  • Iodine
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum

Let’s double click on iodine, a trace mineral that can be difficult to get via diet. Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, crucial chemical messengers that regulate calorie burn, body temperature, muscle contraction, and much more. Iodine deficiency leads to low thyroid hormones, which is problematic for the developing brain. Evidence links iodine deficiency (in both mother and child) to an increased risk of childhood learning disabilities — which is a big reason why table salt is often fortified with iodine.

We don’t include iodine in LMNT — not because we don’t think it’s important — but because we know that not everyone will benefit from iodized salt. For example, calculating iodine intake based on salt intake can make it hard for some to manage thyroid disorders. Also, many people already get plenty of iodine through seafood, and too much iodine can be problematic.

As for the other trace minerals, you’ve probably seen ads touting Himalayan pink salt or sea salt as “mineral-rich.” Simply put, we believe in obtaining micronutrients from nutrient-dense whole foods first and foremost. The minute amounts of trace minerals found in sea salt and pink salt are easily obtainable from other healthy foods. Here’s an article that addresses our choice of salt.

The Electrolytes In LMNT

As you can now likely recall in your sleep, each serving of LMNT contains 1000 mg of sodium, 200 mg of potassium, and 60 mg of magnesium.

This science-backed ratio allows you to get enough of these vital minerals without throwing off your body’s very particular electrolyte balance.

We want healthful hydration to be an easy box to check on your path to health and wellness. Bring a stick pack of LMNT wherever you’re headed, add it to water, and drink to thirst. We also recognize that LMNT isn’t an option for everyone, and that hydration is only one important factor in our well-being. We strongly recommend eating a diet of minimally processed whole foods as a part of holistic health.

With that in mind, let’s end on two practical notes:

  1. Please check out this guide to electrolyte-rich foods. Your diet is your starting lineup in the electrolyte game.
  2. We offer a full list of homemade electrolyte drink recipes. Just like we did for years, you can make your own electrolyte drink at home.

Stay Salty,

The LMNT Team

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