By now we’ve all heard about all the wonders of electrolytes and how beneficial they are for us. But what are electrolytes really?
Electrolytes are involved in a lot of the essential processes of our bodies. They have an important role in regulating the flow of water in and out of the cells of our body, regulating our bodies' pH levels, and igniting nerve impulses (responsible for muscle contractions and heart function).
Many times, we remember to hydrate, however, over-hydration can cause the electrolyte levels in the body to get out of balance. For this reason, you need to get an adequate amount of electrolytes on a daily basis from your diet in order to keep your body functioning as it should.
Today we’re going to show you the benefits of electrolytes and how to replenish them naturally.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. They’re found in our blood, urine, and sweat. However, these very important minerals cannot be produced within the body, so we must acquire them through food. When these minerals dissolve in a fluid, they form electrolytes. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate.
As we’ve already mentioned earlier, electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, balance blood pH and blood pressure, and help in rebuilding muscle tissue. Dehydration is the main reason we need electrolytes. Electrolytes lost after sweating or exercise are difficult to replace with just water. Rehydrating with water alone does not replace these lost electrolytes. This is why it’s important to eat healthy and balanced foods, so we can acquire all the nutrients we need in order to replace the lost electrolytes.
When do we lose electrolytes?
Basically, whenever we lose water from our bodies, we lose electrolytes. When does this happen? When we exercise, for example. Intense exercise is the most common way to lose electrolytes since you’re sweating more than usual. So if you’re a workout enthusiast like our team, in order to improve your athletic performance and speed up your recovery, it’s important that you hydrate yourself and make sure to replenish your electrolytes. What you do before and after your workouts is equally important as the workout itself.
Another common way of dehydration is being exposed to the sun and heat. The hotter the temperature, the more water is lost. To avoid losing too much water, make sure you drink enough water and eat balanced with full minerals, especially during the hottest days depending on where you live. There is yet another occasion when we lose electrolytes but barely anyone thinks about it, this is when we travel by air.
When traveling by air, your body suffers drastic physiological changes due to the change in altitude. Additionally, airplane cabins are low in humidity, which makes your skin feel dry. So keeping in mind your electrolyte balance before taking any flight will help you decrease the effects of dehydration once you’ve landed.
If you’re worried about the number of electrolytes you lose because you sweat a lot, you need to know that when you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes, that’s true. However, the sodium consumed through your diet is normally enough to cover any losses. Unless you are an athlete, in which case you would most likely need to supplement due to the number of hours and intensity of training you do.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance
In some cases, the electrolyte levels in the blood can be either too high or too low. Whichever it is, it can cause an imbalance and can have a harmful effect on your health.
Electrolyte imbalances usually happen due to dehydration (caused by excess heat, vomiting, and diarrhoea) or overhydration. This is why you need to be on top of your nutrition and replace any lost fluids when you need them.
The most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are muscle aches, spasms, twitches and weakness, confusion, numbness, insomnia, anxiety, frequent headaches, blood pressure changes, thirst, fever, joint pain, and dizziness among others.
How to replenish your electrolytes naturally
A lot of people wonder if they should drink electrolyte water or supplement with electrolytes to ensure they get enough or they replenish the amount that they’ve lost previously. Nevertheless, a balanced diet that includes natural sources of electrolytes should be enough for most. Your body has the ability to regulate electrolytes efficiently and keep them at the right levels.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t supplement. There are some circumstances where electrolyte losses are excessive and supplementing with a rehydration beverage with electrolytes can be useful. These occasions can be during a long endurance race or practice, or during an excessive period of vomiting and diarrhoea. The amount that you’ll need will always depend on your losses. But if you’re unsure or have any doubts, the best thing you can do is consult your doctor, pharmacist, or health/fitness professional before taking any supplements.
As we’ve mentioned several times, the best way to reach and maintain a healthy electrolyte balance is through a healthy diet. The main food sources of electrolytes are fruits and vegetables, although the most common source of sodium and chloride nowadays is table salt. Electrolytes like bicarbonate are naturally produced in our bodies, so there’s no need to worry about including them in our diet. Here are some foods that provide electrolytes:
- Sodium. As we’ve said, salt is the number 1 sodium provider nowadays. But there are other foods that provide sodium such as pickled foods, cheese, eggs, and yogurt, among others.
- Chloride. Table salt, cheese, butter, and soy sauce.
- Potassium. Avocado, mushrooms, wither squash, spinach, broccoli, and beet greens.
- Magnesium. Seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, avocados, spinach, and fatty fish.
- Calcium. Dairy products, green leafy vegetables, seeds, sardines and canned salmon, almonds, and whey protein.
As long as these foods are included in your diet, there’s nothing to worry about regarding your electrolyte balance. However, if you want a bit of a boost, here’s a refreshing Keto Electrolyte Drink with Apple Cider Vinegar ideal for summer or hot days!
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