October 2, 2010
Electrolytes vs. Orange Juice

If one compares the amount of electrolytes present in an artificial substance (sports drink), to those in a natural substance (orange juice), then the natural substance will have the most electrolytes. That is my hypothesis. I chose this topic because I have always been skeptical about the validity of the quantity of electrolytes said to be in sports drinks. Sports drinks have been recommended as a way to replace electrolytes lost during exercising. However, orange juice also has electrolytes and these are naturally occurring, not man made. Although water is also a liquid recommended for exercise, it is not used for strenuous exercise because it has no electrolytes. I predict that while running an electric charge through both orange juice and a sports drink by using an ammeter, the conductance of the orange juice will be greater than that of the sports drink. The greater conductance of the orange juice will mean a greater concentration of electrolytes, thus proving my hypothesis.

Background Information:
Electrolytes are electrically-charged ions that move either positive or negative electrodes. Body fluids such as plasma and blood have a high sodium chloride (NaCl) concentration. Other major electrolytes of the human body are potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, magnesium, sulfate, and phosphate. The reason electrolytes are important is because cells like the muscle, heart, and nerve cells use them to keep voltages going across cell membranes and also to carry muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and other electrical impulses to other cells. The job of the kidneys is to maintain a constant concentration of electrolytes in the blood, despite any changes in the body. During heavy exercise, electrolytes such as potassium and sodium are lost in sweat. Electrolytes such as these must always be replaced in order to keep a constant concentration of electrolytes of the body fluids. Because of this, multiple sports drinks added potassium or sodium chloride to them. Sports drinks also include a great quantity of flavorings and sugar, both to add extra energy to the body, and to give the drink a better taste. Drinks that include electrolytes are also important when children or infants have diarrhea or chronic vomiting, which is often due to flue viruses. Electrolytes are sometimes lost by vomiting or diarrhea and these electrolytes as well as the fluids have to be replaced in order to prevent seizures and dehydration. Pediatricians however, never recommend letting sick children drink sports drinks to replace their lost electrolytes. This is because sports drinks contain a greatly higher concentration of sugar than the recommended electrolyte drinks such as Pedialyte, and a high quantity of sugar is an improper treatment for children and infants.
Many famous sports players such as football player Eli Manning, tennis player Serena Williams, track and field star Usain Bolt, basketball player Michael Jordan, and others, all drink the sports drink Gatorade. In a quote by basketball player Dwight Howard, he said: “you have to refuel; you have to get stuff back into your body… so that the next night you can still perform like you did the night before” (Gatorade.com, 2009). Dwight Howard is another star who drinks the sports drink, Gatorade, and he also says he likes it more than water. This makes sense because although water has many qualities that are beneficiary to the body during light exercise, such as combating dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes, making it the wrong drink for most sports or heavy exercise. Gatorade is a sports drink that has a history that dates back to an early summer in 1965. During that summer, an assistant coach in the University of Florida talked to university physicians and questioned them about why a lot of the players on his team became affected by both heat and illnesses related to heat. The researchers (Dr Cade, Dr. Free, Dr. Alejandro de Quesada, and Dr. Shires), discovered what was wrong with the Gator players: The electrolytes and fluids that players lost through their sweat were not being replaced. These same researchers next went to their lab, and formulated a precisely balanced, new, electrolyte beverage which would replace what was lost by the Gator players through exercise and sweating. Almost immediately after the lab researchers had introduced the team the Gatorade formula, the Gators started winning. In the scorching sun, the Gators outlasted numerous opponents who were heavily favored. After the Gators won the Orange bowl for the first time, in 1966, the news about Gatorade started to travel outside of Florida, and other universities purchased Gatorade too for the university sports teams. In the present day, the sports drink Gatorade is used by over 70 colleges and divisions as an official drink of women’s and men’s intercollegiate sports. From 1983 to today, Gatorade has been named an official drink of the NFL.
Orange juice is America’s third favorite drink. Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which is good because the human body cannot naturally produce vitamin C, and therefore the vitamin must be ingested. People go through the process of detoxification and vitamin C found in oranges assists that process. Vitamin C helps people who have arthritis, and fights inflammation. Due to it’s richness in fiber, orange juice also lowers the threat of developing colon, breast, prostate, and many other forms of cancer. Orange juice even helps to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure levels, fight cough and cold, and flush out toxins to defend from numerous diseases. Studies have proven that orange juice can even reduce the risk of heart disease, because it can improve the circulation. This drink also contains folic acid, calcium, and potassium, all of which are good for the health. A negative factor of orange juice is that it has high sugar levels which, in turn, causes weight gain when drank in great quantities. Also, orange juice has a high level of acidity, which makes it a cause of tooth damage if the teeth are not cared for properly after drinking it.
A previous research project similar to my topic was conducted by Dr. Mark Davis, Ph.D., at the University of South Carolina, and studied how carbohydrates in sports drinks would affect a person’s fatigue throughout exercise that was high-intensity, and ‘stop-and-go,’ that lasted about an hour. In this study, Dr. Davis measured untrained but physically active women and men during high-intensity exercise similar to those a hockey or basketball player may experience while moving on the rink or court at high speeds. Subjects of this study used stationary bikes to exercise on during one minute intervals of activities of high-intensity, after which they rested for three minutes. One time, subjects of the study drank Gatorade during exercise. Another time, subjects drank water. This was a double blind study, so both the research staff and the subjects did not know what they were drinking each time. In an explanation of his results, Dr. Davis said: “The results of our study showed that by drinking the carbohydrate drinks, the exercisers maintained a high-intensity effort for an average of 28 minutes longer than when the same exercisers unknowingly drank the flavored water placebo.”(Mindspring.com, 2000).
Another research project comparable to my topic was performed by the Arizona State University, and experimented on which container of orange juice comprised of the most vitamin C. In the course of the experiment, the orange juice was placed inside of many different types of containers. This study proved that frozen, reconstituted orange juice consisted of more vitamin C than the pre-made ones. The study also found that the juices in containers that had screw tops held additional vitamin C in the opening, than those that contained orange juice in containers similar to milk cartons.
My personal opinion about the research conducted by Dr. Mark is that his study was useful because it showed that the benefits of drinking sports drinks applied to all sports, and not just continuous hard exercising as was thought before this study. His research relates to my experiment because they both involve sports drinks. Also, I believe that the Arizona State University study was important because it shows how different containers of orange juice can affect the vitamin C content. This study should be considered when choosing an orange juice. The vitamin C research relates to my topic because they both contain orange juice. Not much is known about the topic that I am presenting, because sports drinks have always been considered the right drink for replacing electrolytes. The goal of my experiment is to prove whether or not that is true.

Materials and Supplies:
1) A multimeter (to measure current).
2) Masking tape.
3) Small ceramic bowls (8).
4) Paper towels.
5) Wires with alligator clips on both ends to make connections, around 6 inches long (2).
6) Measuring cup, with capacity of ½-cup.
7) 9-V battery clip.
8) 9-V battery.
9) Ruler.
10) Handsaw for cutting plastic tube.
11) Plastic tube (pen), cut to approximately 1 inch
12) Tap water, at room temperature.
13) 8 0z Distilled water (dH2O), at room temperature.
14) 8 oz Orange juice, at room temperature.
15) 8 oz Sports drink, at room temperature (Gatorade).
16) Wire cutters.
17) Permanent marker.
18) 12 inches of 24-gauge bare Copper wire.
19) Writing paper.

1) Make a conductance sensor.
a. Use wire cutters to cut 2 pieces of copper wire, each around 6 inches long.
b. Use handsaw to cut plastic tube into 1 inch piece.
c. Wrap 1 piece of wire around tube near one end a few times, and leave around 2 inches of wire free.
d. Repeat step ‘c’ with the second piece of wire near the other end of the tube. Leave no contact between wires, and wrap them tight so they do not fall off.
e. Attach battery clip to battery
f. Attach 1 free copper wire on conductance sensor, to positive terminal of 9-V battery, using wire with 1 alligator clip.
g. Attach the second copper wire from sensor to black terminal of multimeter, using the second alligator clip.
i. Which side has the positive and negative leads does not matter.
2) Clean 8 bowls using warm and soapy water, and dry the bowls with paper towels.
3) Place masking tape around all bowls and label with permanent marker.
a. Label 4 of the bowls: Distilled Water, Tap Water, Sports Drink, and Orange Juice.
b. Label 1 of the bowls: Tap Water Rinse.
c. Label 3 of the bowls: dH2O Rinse 1, dH2O Rinse 2, and dH2O Rinse 3.
4) Pour ½ cup of every liquid into their labeled bowl. Keep all solutions at room temperature.
5) Turn multimeter to Direct Current. Do not use alternating current.
a. Use 200-microamps setting for reading low conductance (distilled water). Use higher settings for solutions containing high concentration of electrolytes (Sports drink).
6) Place conductance sensor completely immersed in distilled water.
7) Read current on multimeter. Move dial to highest sensitivity.
8) Record current on writing paper.
a. Voltage = 9V, is obtained from battery. Current is measured with multimeter.
9) Do not rinse, because distilled water was used.
10) Place conductance sensor into tap water.
11) Record current on writing paper.
12) Tap sensor on paper towel to eliminate drops of tap water.
13) Place sensor in sports drink, then measure current.
14) Record current on writing paper.
15) Tap sensor dry, then dip sensor in tap water, then in each of the 3 bowls of distilled water.
16) Place sensor in orange juice, then measure current.
17) Record current on writing paper.
18) Rinse sensor in tap water, then in each of the 3 bowels of distilled water.
19) Repeat steps 6-18 twice more for 3 measurements for each liquid.
20) Average results.
a. To convert from microamps to amps, divide by 1,000,000. To convert from milliamps to amps, divide by 1,000.
b. To calculate conductance, use equation: G=I/V.
1) ‘G’ is conductance, measured in siemens.
2) ‘I’ is current, measured in amperes (amps).
3) ‘V’ is voltage, measured in volts (V).


In this experiment, the type of drink (orange juice or sports drink) is the independent variable. The conductance is the dependent variable. The control group is the distilled water. The voltage of the battery of is the variable kept constant between the groups.

Data Collection:

Graph of Conductance

Chart of Current

Conductance 1
(Dependent Variable)
Conductance 2
(Dependent Variable)
Conductance 3
(Dependent Variable)
(Independent Variable)
5.7 siemens
5.8 siemens
5.6 siemens
Orange Juice
(Independent Variable)
5.6 siemens
5.7 siemens
5.5 siemens
(Control Group)
1 siemens
1 siemens
1 siemens

Data Analysis/Conclusion:

My data concluded that water has a conductance of 1.11×10^-7 siemens. The conductance of orange juice is 0.62 siemens. The sports drink Gatorade has a conductance of 0.63 siemens. These results prove my hypothesis false. In accordance with prior knowledge, orange juice has almost no conductivity, and thus it is equivalent to the control group. Because a higher conductivity means a higher electrolyte count, sports drinks actually have a greater quantity of electrolytes than orange juice, and this is why my hypothesis was wrong.
However, the difference in conductivity between Gatorade and orange juice is only a one hundredth. This means that there is very little reason to choose Gatorade over orange juice. Orange juice has vitamins like folic acid, calcium, and potassium, and other natural benefits such as the ability to prevent diseases, and improve a person’s circulation. Gatorade is, in part, drunk due to its well known brand name and reputation. In reality, with only a one hundredth difference between a natural drink containing many helpful vitamins and minerals, and one made of chemicals such as those that cause food coloring, it is not a incredibly hard to see which is more profitable to the body if drunk during exercise.
The only thing that I could have done differently in order to gain more accurate results is to have designed a better conductance sensor. The wires in the sensor repeatedly fell off of the tube and because of this I wrapped a small piece of masking tape around the tube so that the wires would not come off. When the tape got to wet, it would fall off, and had to be replaced with more tape. Also, the clips connecting the battery to the wires also often came loose, and thus they had to be constantly reconnected. Whether the faulty conductance sensor had any effect on the outcome of this experiment is unknown. It is quite possible however, that it was this problem which caused the small difference in conductivity between the sports drink and orange juice, and that their conductivities really were equivalent.


“How Much Should I Drink – and When.” Mindspring.com. Mindspring.com, 2000. Web. 10/2/10.<http://www.mindspring.com/~jeffkathren/howmuch.pdf>

“Road to the G series.” Gatorade.com. Gatorade.com, 2009. Web. 10/2/10
< http://www.gatorade.com/default.aspx#roadtogseries>

“Starting Your Day with Orange Juice.” Orangejuice.org. Orangejuice.org, 2009. Web. 10/2/10 < http://www.orangejuice.org>

“Testing vitamin C content in orange juice.” NaturalVitaminsReviews.com. NaturalVitaminsReviews.com, 2008. Web. 10/2/10. <http://naturalvitaminsreviews.com/vitamin-c-content-in-orange-juice.html>

“What are electrolytes?.” Discovery Health. Discovery Communications Inc., 2010. Web. 10/3/10. < http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/information/question565.htm>

Whyte, David. “Electrolyte Challenge: Orange Juice vs. Sports drink.” Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 2002. Web. 10/3/10. <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Chem_p053.shtml?fave=no&isb=c2lkOjEsaWE6Q2hlbSxwOjIscmlkOjcyMDMxNjQ&from=TSW>