When we hear electrolytes, the first thing we think of is drinking a sports drink after a workout. But what are electrolytes and why do we need them? Many people don't know the answer to this, and can be the reason you're not getting enough. Let us uncover everything you need to know about electrolytes below.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are ionic solutions that work to keep your body, muscles, and nerves balanced and functioning properly. They're made up on charge minerals and compounds that create an electric energy when mixed with water. Therefore they're critical for your health, which is why your body strives to keep them in order. The most important types of electrolytes include: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. Your kidneys play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of electrolytes in your blood. When you workout, you sweat, you lack fluids and electrolytes, and then your muscles and your performance suffer. Thus, having your electrolytes in balance is critical.
Are You Getting Enough Electrolytes?
Now that you know what electrolytes are, you're probably wondering if you're getting enough. Well don't worry, there are many tell-tale signs that show you're deficient and your electrolytes are out of balance. One is dehydration, for if you don’t have enough water in your system, your electrolytes will be out of balance. The best way to tell this is by looking at the color of your pee (a pale yellow is hydrated, anything else brighter or darker indicates dehydration). Fatigue is also a common symptom, if you feel groggy or chronically tired. Lastly, muscle cramps can mean an imbalance as well. So how do you fix your electrolyte count? HYDRATE.
Which Sport Drinks Are Best For Electrolytes?
Chugging water helps with dehydration, but you still need to replace the missing electrolytes. That's where sport drinks come in. Gatorade electrolytes are the most popular since it has a good amount of sodium and glucose (sugar). Other options of course are Powerade electrolytes and Vitamin Water electrolytes. These drinks basically get you re-hydrated faster, while minimizing urination. Therefore when you’re drinking a sports drink, the liquid will stay in your body longer, giving it more time to get absorbed, which will get you back into balance quicker. On the opposing side, sport drinks are essentially sugar water, which has A LOT of calories. Thus, if you're not running marathons or doing hours of intense work, then you shouldn't be drinking them casually.
Other Ways To Supplement Electrolytes
Just like how there are other ways to stay hydrated besides water, there are also other ways to get electrolytes. This can be done through various healthy foods. Fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are high in calcium, as well as fruit like bananas, oranges, melons, and avocados, which are a good source of potassium. Then there are various nuts and seeds such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds, which are all a great source of magnesium. If you're looking for the holy grail of foods packed with electrolytes, then eat spinach, which contains potassium, calcium, AND magnesium.