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Old 10-16-2004, 11:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: 37.7 Lat, -89.2 Long IL
Posts: 510
Question about electrolytes and alcohol - bad combo? possible urban legend

I did a few searches on snopes but didn't come up with anything.

A friend told me that he knows someone who goes to school in Nashville TN where this story took place.

There was a girl who was studying to finals. To stay awake and aware she constantly drank gatorade and other energy drinks that contained electrolytes for about a week. After her last final on friday she went out to the bars and parties to forget about her stressful week. She drank a LOT. She went to bed that night and woke up still feeling quite drunk. In fact, she felt intoxicated for the next few days without drinking another drop of alcohol.

As the story goes, she had so many electrolytes in her body that they held the alcohol in and in turn kept her drunk for days.

Possible? Lies? Could this possibly be true or just another Urban Legend? I'm skeptical.
Old 10-17-2004, 01:21 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 987
It sounds like an urban legend, particularly because it contains a moral lesson about bad things that will happen to you if you drink too much.

If you drink excessive amounts of electrolytes, they will be excreted by the kidneys (unless, of course, there's a problem with your kidneys). Maintaining the correct balance of electrolytes is essential, and serious problems including death can result from electrolyte imbalances. But the kidneys can maintain this balance well, or you could easily die from eating too much salt.

I can't see how consuming excessive amounts of electrolytes could cause prolonged intoxication, even if the electrolytes weren't excreted by the kidneys. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver to acetaldehyde, then to acetic acid. The acetic acid is then 'burned' for energy in the same way that the body obtains energy from carbohydrates -- except that it enters the process at a later stage than carbohydrates. Some alcohol is excreted through the kidneys, but that's not the main way it's eliminated. This page discusses alcohol metabolism and briefly discusses how excessive alcohol consumption can cause lowered electrolyte levels. (If anything, maybe having high amounts of electrolytes would be helpful.)

One other problem is that the story seems to confuse 'sports drink' with 'energy drink'. Gatorade is a sports drink, a solution that is meant to replace the electrolytes that athletes lose from heavy sweating. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates to provide chemical energy, such as one would need for strenuous exercise. Neither electrolytes nor carbohydrates provide the sort of 'energy' that promotes wakefulness. To stay awake through finals, a student would need a drink that contained a stimulant such as caffeine, not a drink that contained electrolytes. And caffeine, incidentally, is diuretic and would assist in the elimination of excessive electrolytes.
Old 10-17-2004, 01:47 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: East Lansing, MI
Posts: 2,687
Bullshit I say. Simple solution for being drunk: time will heal. 100% of all doctors I have ever known agree.
Old 10-17-2004, 06:31 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Cocytus
Posts: 275
taking in a lot af salt before drinking is just like eating the bowlful of pretzels at the bar.

also, i thought the salt loss from sweating wasn't a major factor and that the salt in gatorade is just to make you thirsty so you drink enough water and don't get dehydrated.
Old 10-17-2004, 06:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: A Derby City lab
Posts: 1,292
This kinda sounds parallel to the good old "toxin buildup" that can be cured by plunking down $100 for some bogus system cleanser (and the accompanying fast or odd food consumption): What you eat or drink stays in and has to be flushed out somehow. The whole point behind urine production is to maintain water and salt balance in the blood, and unless this girl had bad or failed kidneys, she would have exctreted whatever was in excess, be it water or salts. I also don't see how electrolytes can hold alcohol in your system. That just doesn't happen. I think the moral of the story is that after trying to take care of herself with more or less healthy drinks, she goes out and poisons herself with alcohol, and it has a worse effect on her than usual (as punishment for not taking care of herself).


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